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

1856. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 22 January 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany 22. 1811.

My dear friend

I hope you have duly received Kehama. [1]  As far as my present information concerning it goes (tho that is not likely to be of the fairest kind) it does not seem to be so compleatly ‘to the Greeks foolishness’ [2]  as I had anticipated. Scott tells me he has reviewed it for the next Quarterly. [3] 

In reviewing Holmes’s American Annals I pointed out Philip’s War as the proper subject for an Anglo-American Iliad. [4]  I have now fallen in love with it myself, & am brooding over it, with the full intention of falling to work as soon as Pelayo [5]  is compleated. The main interest will come fix upon Goffe the Regicide, [6]  for whom I invent a Quaker son, – a new character you will allow for heroic poetry: – this Oliver Goffe however is to be the hero, – & unless my second sight deceives me far more than it is apt to do in these things, I expect to produce something very striking out of the materials. – Concerning the metre I am undetermined & indeed pe rather perplexed; – for in those parts which require an under-tone rhyme is as desirable, as it is objectionable when the xxx subject rises into a higher key.

Have you seen Capt Pasleys Essay on our Military Policy? [7]  – in the main it is a book after my own heart. I am perfectly satisfied that Europe has no other hope or chance of liberty, than from the success of unless we win it with the sword; & I am as certain that if the trial be fairly made we must succeed. Lord Holland if he comes into power, will do more for the Spaniards than the present ministry, unless he be as much crippled by his colleagues as Canning was. There {In Spain} we have a fair field, & there we may raise armies to any amount. –

The M. Magazine falsely announces my second vol. which cannot go to press till the end of the year. [8]  I guess that Reginald Heber reviewed the first in the Quarterly, [9]  – a Norfolk man would have understood the word Broad, – a term for which neither Lake nor Lagoon can properly be substituted. Every other phrase word which has been objected to is equally defensible, for I never use a peculiar word without perceiving, or at least imagining a peculiar fitness in it. A coronal is not a coronet, & It would be as improper to talk of a savages coronet as of a Dukes coronal. A Tambour is any outlandish drum, – that is any dr – it excludes the idea of a regimental drum. A poitral is a horses breastplate, not a mans. The time for birds eye recapitulations (farther than such a one as is given of the state of the Captaincies in Chap. 10) [10]  is not yet come. After the conclusion of the Dutch war is the proper place, [11]  – & for the Plata provinces when I begin to develop the Jesuit system. For general views they can appear only in the general spirit of the narrative, till the concluding chapter, which will be as it were the key-stone of the arch.

I am closely employed upon the Register, [12]  & have no other complaint to make of the work than that it delays the completion of my Brazil. The year is considerably heavier than the last. The curst inquiry about Mrs Clarke [13]  cost me a full hundred pages, besides its after consequences, & the other foreign affairs are so numerous & important that on the whole the volume narrative xxx must be nearly a third longer than that for 1808. This is so much expence of time to me, who am paid by the piece, & is no gain to the publishers, – should the pu reader complain therefore he will be very ungrateful. I have good materials for the Spanish part, & expect more. A towns man (I believe) of yours Mr Amyot  [14]  has forwarded some queries to Gen. Caroll, [15]  respecting Romanas [16]  operations in the North, & the D. of Albuquerques [17]  Secretary has sent others to Cadiz, & supplied me with a series of papers, &c. All this I owe to Henry Robinson.

Shall you be in town in the spring or early summer? My present purpose is that Edith should accompany me to Streatham; – this may so easily be prevented when an infant is in the case, that it is not wholly to be depended upon, – & if I travel alone & should not meet you in London, I shall be strongly tempted to xx make for Norwich, & touch at Clarksons in the way. Shall I never see you here & show you my books & my boat, & how happily {happily} I contrive to unite industry & idleness in my way of life? In every other kind of business double the work is done by every individual than was done even forty years ago; but in literature the most laborious of us is a mere idler to our forefathers. Put the works of Voltaire into one scale, & those {of} Scotus, Aquinas, or even Erasmus [18]  in another, & bulk for bulk the Frenchman will kick the beam, – but what will the difference be when the hard-thinking of those old mighty (however mis-directed) minds xx is taken into the account!

I ask after your mother [19]  with apprehensions of that which in the course of nature must now be nigh. Whenever it comes may it be that falling asleep – that euthanasia which if it be rare is only made so by the vices & follies of society. – I never think you as a single man without sorrow, & some disposition to censure. – if only to exchange sorrow for the less unpleasant feeling of anger; – which I believe is the reason why I always scold my children when they hurt themselves.

God bless you

Yrs very affectionately

R Southey.

I believe Harry has some prospect of a Doctorling, – a circumstance which if it take place is more likely to benefit his worldly affairs than any thing else could be. [20] 


* Address: To/ William Taylor Junr Esqr/ Surry Street/ Norwich/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: Ansd 2 Feb
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4867
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 339–343. BACK

[1] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[2] A paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 1: 23: ‘But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness’. BACK

[3] Quarterly Review, 5 (February 1811), 40–61. For the pre-publication controversy surrounding the review, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 January 1811, Letter 1848. BACK

[4] Abiel Holmes (1763–1837), American Annals; or, a Chronological History America, from its Discovery in 1492 to 1806 (1808), for Southey’s appraisal see Quarterly Review, 2 (November 1809), 319–337. King Philip’s War, or Metacom’s Rebellion, 1675–1676, was an armed conflict between English colonists and the Native American inhabitants of New England. This formed the backdrop to Southey’s ‘Oliver Newman’, left incomplete at his death. BACK

[5] The early incarnation of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[6] William Goffe (c. 1605–c. 1679; DNB), soldier and one of the signatories of the death warrant of Charles I (1600–1649; King of Great Britain 1625–1649; DNB). Condemned to death at the Restoration in 1660, he fled to New England and died there under an assumed name. BACK

[7] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). BACK

[8] Monthly Magazine, 30 (January 1811), 555, had claimed ‘The second volume of Mr. Southey’s History of Brazil is at press’. It was not, and was not published until 1817. BACK

[9] The first volume of the History of Brazil had been published by Longman in 1810. The remainder of this paragraph is a response to the appraisal (by Reginald Heber) published in the Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 454–474 (esp. 472; 474). Southey’s unusual words occurred in History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, p. 133 ‘broads’; p. 187 ‘coronal’ instead of ‘coronet’; pp. 89, 121 ‘tambour’; p. 122 ‘poitrals’. BACK

[10] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, pp. 316–330. BACK

[11] In 1654 at the conclusion of the Dutch-Portuguese war in Brazil. This was dealt with in volume 2 of the History of Brazil, published in 1817. But the volume did not contain the overview that Southey suggests. BACK

[12] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811). BACK

[13] In 1809, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), had been forced to resign as commander-in-chief of the British army in the wake of allegations that he had profited from office trafficking. After a lengthy investigation, the charges were found to be unproven. It had, however, become apparent that his former mistress Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB) had received money from individuals keen for her to use her influence with the Duke, and that the Duke himself had known of her actions. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 109–301. BACK

[14] Thomas Amyot was, indeed, from Norwich. BACK

[15] William Parker Carrol (1776–1842), liaison officer between the British and Spanish forces. Later promoted to Major-General and Field Marshal in the Spanish Army. BACK

[16] The Spanish general, Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana (1761–1811). BACK

[17] The Spanish military commander, Jose Miguel de la Cueva, 13th Duke of Alburquerque (1774–1811). BACK

[18] The philosophers, Duns Scotus (c. 1265–1308), Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274), and Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536). BACK

[19] Sarah Taylor, née Wright (1735/1736–1812). BACK

[20] I believe … could be: Written at top of fol. 1r. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013