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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1749. Robert Southey to John Murray, 19 February 1810 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

The reviewal goes by this nights post. It was Mr Giffords wish that it should comprize a life of Nelson – & accordingly {after} some previous criticism in which Mr Stanier Clarke is not very gently handled, this is the form which it assumes. [1]  Such a life as you propose is unquestionably a desideratum, & I do not want inclination for the task, but I am fearful it would interfere too much with other employments. All these lives are slovenly performances – there is nothing like clear lucid narrative in any of them. I could make a good book & a useful one, & it would give me an opportunity of saying some things which I think worth saying, & want a place for. – Let me keep the materials a week or ten days, & in the course of that time I will think the matter over with due deliberation, & either undertake it totis viribus, [2]  or repack these volumes & dismiss them by the waggon.

I shall have little for your next quarter, – the Edinburgh Register [3]  will employ me for the next month, & after that time I shall be absent a few weeks from home, lying fallow for a short season. Without saying much of the Jesuits in Paraguay, a good article may be made upon Azara [4] of the Jesuits he That subject makes so material a part of my historical work that I could not touch upon it without forestalling myself. But I can write upon the existing state of Paraguay. I can compare Azara with other writers upon the same country. I can detect his presumption & many of his errors, & I can severely reprehend some of his opinions. – I had bought the book as soon as it came to England, & was thoroughly acquainted with its contents before you sent it me.

The article upon Methodism will take some time. [5]  I have also begun one upon the Missions in South Africa, [6]  – but a short article upon Grahame Georgics, [7]  & one not much longer upon the Zetlands are all that I shall be likely to supply you with for the sixth quarter. [8] 

I thoughts the Character of Fox [9]  the best thing in your last number. Your politics accord with mine so far as they are for vigorous war, & as they condemn the conduct of poor Sir J Moore. [10]  I hope they will not become violent, – tho an Anti-Foxite, & I am by no means an Anti-Jacobine. To me it appears that the wisest as well as the best way is to appear as independent of any party as possible. This I have done in the Register. – Turners Austrian article [11]  pleased me very much, tho I had not the slightest suspicion that it was his. Why do you not get a Welsh article from him? My reviewal of Ld Valentia [12] . was not written in haste, – had it not been wanted for that number, I should have written it some weeks later, but not more carefully nor with more consideration, had I spoken worse of the book I should have belied my own judgements. That the article was less liked than my others I suppose to have been because its information was less novel, (many who read it having probably read the book itself) – & partly because the subject does not admit of original discussion.

The subject of the propagation of Christianity in India is one upon which I have so clear & earnest an opinion, that if you thought it would answer to reprint that article in an enlarged form, making a octavo volume little volume of about 4 or 5/s price, I would willingly affix my name to it, for a share in the eventual profits of proportionate to the additional matter. [13] 

believe me

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey

Keswick. Feby 19. 1810.


* Address: To/ Mr Murray/ Fleet Street/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E / 22 FE 22/ 1810
Endorsement: 1810 Feby 19 – Keswick/ Southey R
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42550
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 529–530. BACK

[1] Southey’s review of John Charnock (1756–1806; DNB), Biographical Memoirs of Lord Viscount Nelson, &c., &c., &c.; with Observations, Critical and Explanatory (1806); James Harrison (d. 1847), The Life of Lord Nelson (1806); T. O. Churchill (fl. 1800–1823), The Life of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronté, &c (1808); and James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts (1809); see Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. It was later expanded into a full-scale Life of Nelson (1813) at Murray’s request. BACK

[2] ‘With all [my] might’. BACK

[3] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810). BACK

[4] Felix Manuel de Azara (1742–1821), Spanish solider, engineer and naturalist. Southey was particularly interested in his writings on Paraguay and owned copies of his Essais sur l’Histoire Naturelle des Quadrupedes de la Province du Paraguay (1801) and Voyages dans l’Amerique Meridionale depuis 1781, jusqu’ en 1801 (1809), nos 89 and 90 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. He did not review Azara for the Quarterly, but did make use of him in numerous writings, including the History of Brazil and the Tale of Paraguay. BACK

[5] Southey’s review of Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[6] This was not written. It might have been inspired by accounts of the Moravians’ and London Missionary Society’s work in the Cape of Good Hope. BACK

[7] James Grahame, British Georgics (1809), Quarterly Review, 3 (May 1810), 456–461. BACK

[8] This article was not written. It would have reviewed Arthur Edmondston (1776?–1841; DNB), A Review of the Ancient and Present State of the Zetland Islands (1809). BACK

[9] A review of books on Charles James Fox (1749–1809; DNB), Quarterly Review, 2 (November 1809), 243–255. Its author was the lawyer and politician Alexander Maconochie-Welwood Meadowbank (1777–1861; DNB). BACK

[10] The British commander, Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), who was killed in battle at Corunna on 16 January 1809. Southey was highly critical of Moore’s conduct, accusing him, for example, of forming ‘unjust and self-paralysing prejudices against the Spanish people’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 479. BACK

[11] Quarterly Review, 1 (May 1809), 437–455; co-authored by Turner, Canning and Gifford. BACK

[12] George Annesley, Viscount Valentia (1770–1844), Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 (1809), in Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 88–126. Southey’s article underwent major revisions by Gifford before publication BACK

[13] Southey’s review of Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. This was not expanded into book-length form. BACK

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August 2013