1801. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, [started before and continued on] 13 August 1810

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

1801. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, [started before and continued on] 13 August 1810 ⁠* 

The Italian Castanheda [1]  which I sent you contains the 4th – 5 – 6 & 7th books – I had been obliged to purchase a duplicate for the sake of the preceding volume with the three first books, & this was the reason why yours was returned. My own copy is a remarkably fine one, curiously half bound in xx embossed vellum with the date 1580 on the covers, & the name of some former possessor (a German), xxxx stamped in gold letters. Still I want the three last books of Castanheda. Of the first I have as you know the modern edition in two vol. [2]  The English translation [3]  xxxxx cannot be worth purchasing even at half its preposterous price, – or half the half, – for the original may be had any day at Lisbon for a quartinho. We still want three books.

Edith desires me to thank my Aunt for her offer, which is very gladly accepted. – The christening will take place as soon as xx <Edith> can be present at it. she is going on as well as we could wish, & the young Katharine also.

The Register [4]  is published at last. I do not know the names of any person concerned in it. The article wherein I am so liberally praised, & so civilly censured, is very showy, – but it is also abundantly shallow. [5]  As for Campbell who is extolled so highly I will undertake to convince any person who knows what good English is that he never wrote ten lines of it, – & that his verses have as little sense as English. Montgomery who is truly a man of genius is scarcely mentioned, – & Landor not at all, – tho Gebir [6]  has better stuff in it (in spite of all its obscurity) than any other poem which has appeared since the Paradise Lost. [7]  What is said of Scotts manner of narration, & of his costume, is just as appropriate to me, – & Scotts main merit is entirely overlooked, – that of conceiving what in the drama are called fine situations, – by which his poems are as much distinguished as Matthew Lewis’s [8]  plays. – There has been a review of Scotts Lady [9]  lately in the Christian Observer, in which they have taken occasion to pronounce a panygyric upon Thalaba, [10]  & their praise is luckily of that kind which is very likely to make the book in fashion among the Evangelicals. [11]  It often makes me smile to see from what unexpected quarters I receive praise or blame. The Bishop of Gloucester [12]  franks a letter to me last week & wrote x very handsome note within the cover to express his “respect for Mr S’s superior talents & honourable principles.”

Aug 13th

I have a letter this evening from Ballantyne in which he tells me that the Proprietors of the Register, attributing much of its success to me, offer me 1/12 share in it. The outlay on each twelfth has been £209 – the profit for this vol. £80 – nearly 40 per cent, to be paid immediately by bills at a year. The outlay remains to go on with the succeeding volumes, as stock, & when any proprietor chuses to retire his share is purchased by the remaining partners at the original £209. – Nature never meant me to have anything to do with financial accounts, either of my own or the publics. I see plainly enough that the interest is not quite so great as is here represented, – but it is also true that the sale of a second edition would make it much greater. xx I have £150 in Ballantyne hands, – it will put me to my shifts to do without it for the next six months, but so I can shift, – xxxxx <it> seems an opportunity of advantage which ought not to be let slip. This may perhaps make me postpone my intended visit to London till spring March or April next, – it will leave me aground & there I must remain till spring-tide.

The Blackburnes [13]  departed this morning after a short stay in bad weather.

I wish much for the Santuario Marianno, [14]  & the Sermons of Antonio das Chagas. [15]  – the former contains some historical truth involved per accident in its tissue of lies, – the latter may possibly be as rich as Vieyras [16]  in incidental information. These books I should think might be got without difficulty at Lisbon. – You will see a summary of the Observador Portuguez [17]  in the next Quarterly. It contains a curious anecdote of the Sebastianistas. Junot thought them of so much consequence that be changed the name of the ship S. Sebastiaõ. [18] 



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Postmarks: E/ 16 AU 16/ 1810
Endorsement: Aug. 1810
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Fernao Lopes de Castanheda (c. 1500–1559), Historia do Descobrimento, e Conquista da India pelos Portuguezas (1554). An Italian translation, published in 1577, was no. 455 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[2] Southey owned a 1797 edition of Castanheda; no. 3187 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] The First Booke of the Historie of the Discoueries and Conquest of the East Indias (1582), the translator was Nicholas Lichefield (fl. 16th century). BACK

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

[5] Southey, Thomas Campbell (1777–1844; DNB) and Scott had been described as ‘the three most successful candidates for poetical fame’ in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.2 (1810), 419. BACK

[6] Landor’s Gebir (1798). BACK

[7] John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), Paradise Lost (1667). BACK

[8] The novelist and playwright Matthew Lewis (1775–1818; DNB). BACK

[9] Lady of the Lake (1810); reviewed in Christian Observer, 9 (June 1810), 366–389. BACK

[10] The review praised Southey for being ‘unequalled’ in ‘sublimity of conception, eloquence, and depth of feeling’ and cited Thalaba as ‘by far the best’ of his ‘performances’, Christian Observer, 9 (June 1810), 389. BACK

[11] Southey was right; see his letter to John Martyn Longmire, 4 November 1812, Letter 2172. BACK

[12] George Isaac Huntingford (1748–1832; DNB), who was Bishop of Gloucester 1802–1815. He was a Tory and a staunch opponent of Catholic Emancipation. BACK

[13] Possibly the family of John Ireland Blackburne (1783–1874), MP for Newton 1807–1818, Warrington 1835–1847. BACK

[14] Agostinho de Santa Maria (1642–1728), Santuario Mariano e Historia das Imagens milagrosas de nossa Senhora e das milagrosamente apparecidas (1707–1723), no. 3222 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[15] Antonio da Fonseca Soares (1631–1682), a soldier who became a Franciscan friar under the name Antonio das Chagas. Southey later acquired a seven volume edition of his Obras (1763), no. 3257 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[16] Antonio Vieira (1608–1697). His Sermoens (1679–1748) are one of the best-regarded works of Portuguese prose. Southey’s copy was no. 3771 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[17] Observador Portuguez, Historico e Politico de Lisboa (1809), no. 3556 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 4 (August 1810), 1–24. BACK

[18] Quarterly Review, 4 (August 1810), 17. The Sebastianistas were a messianic sect who looked for the return of Sebastian I (1554–1578; King of Portugal 1557–1578). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013

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