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

1976. Robert Southey to John Murray, 2 November 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov. 2. 1811

My dear Sir

I received your parcel duly, & was exceedingly glad to see its contents. Dr Bell has not been so fortunate, the copies of the Review [1]  have not reached Keswick. How did you direct them?

This pamphlett [2]  will be a most triumphant thing. It will enable me to set the question of the invention at rest; to explain to the public what the New School is, – which is not possible to learn from any of the Lancastrian writers, – to do justice to Dr Bell, who is one of the greatest benefactors of mankind, & who has been more villainously used than any man living, & to strike the Edinburgh R. the heaviest & hardest blow which has ever been given them. Please to send me No 21 of that Review, [3]  & also that number which reviews Clarksons Portraiture of Quakerism, [4]  – for it will be useful to compare their character of the Quakers there given, with their present praises of the society, [5]  – matter for a wholesome note. I should be glad also of Lancasters editions of 1808 & 1811, [6]  – indeed any of his late publications. Colquhon’s Treatise on Indigence, & On the Education of the Poor. [7]  The Bp. of Londons Pastoral Letter with Dr Bells appendix, [8]  John Bowless late pamphlett upon the controversy [9]  – (Non tali auxilio!) [10]  Archdeacon Daubneys [11]  – & Whitbreads speech upon the Poor Laws. [12]  The terms which you propose for this pamphlett are perfectly liberal, & I thank you for them. I shall dedica address it in an Epistle Dedicatory to the Editor of the Ed. Review. [13]  This is already sketched out, & when it is finished off will cut like a razor. In the body of the work I lay on the Beadles Whip. [14] 

Respecting Nelson, [15]  – of course there will be no remarks on his former biographers. I shall always bear in mind the purpose & use of the book, – that it is to be the Midshipmans manual, – his moral & intellectual compass. – For this reason I shall avoid all detail of the dreadful scenes at Naples, – delivering my opinion, tho most intelligibly, in the gentlest terms, & passing as rapidly as possible over the whole disgraceful transaction. [16]  The History of Europe is the place where I shall soon be called upon to enter at full into the story of Neapolitan politics. [17] 

You shall have the Inquisition [18]  in about a week. Do not keep the first place for it, if you {have} any thing else to begin with. I shall send you Montgomery also, which is nearly done, [19]  – & Chalmers [20]  I trust to conclude with. I perceive he inclines towards Methodism, & of course writes very uncharitably. What could possess the booksellers to pitch upon such a man as Editor General of the Poets! Mr Whitbread & his Committee might just as well have applied to me for a design for Drury Lane Theatre! [21]  – I know as much about architecture as he does about poetry. He does not even understand the names of his tools, as is evident by what he says about Iambic & Trochaic feet.

I had nearly forgotten one thing. Let me bespeak Lucien Buonapartes poem. [22]  I am better read in French Epics than any body else sans doubt, – & I can translate the specimens as well as any body else. But my reason for wishing it is this. If the thing be bad I would say so in the most becoming terms, – at any rate I would fain speak of the author as he deserves, – to my own certain knowledge. For I owe him something for the very liberal & handsome manner in which he sent for Coleridge at Rome, & advised him to get as soon as possible out of his brothers [23]  reach. It was done so liberally as with so much good sense as well as good feeling, that it would wound me to see him treated with asperity when it was in my power to prevent it. Be assured I will not praise him unjustly: all I desire to do is to xxxx censure the poem, if it requires censure, in such terms as shall render the censure in the most decorous manner.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

R Southey.


* Address: To/ Mr Murray/ Fleet Street/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 5 NO 5/ 1811
Watermark: shield/ 1806
Endorsement: 1811 Nov. 2. Keswick/Q R No 12/Southey R./Art. {on} Inquisition/Chalmers Poets/Bonapartes Poem/Pampt on Bell & Lancaster/Life of Nelson
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42550
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Copies of the Quarterly requested via Southey to Murray; see Southey to John Murray, 23 October 1811, Letter 1971. BACK

[2] Southey’s The Origin, Nature and Object, of the New System of Education (1812), an expansion of his advocacy of Andrew Bell in Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. It contained numerous attacks on Joseph Lancaster and on his defenders in the Edinburgh Review. BACK

[3] The twenty-first number of the Edinburgh Review, which formed part of the eleventh volume of the same. Southey wished to see Edinburgh Review, 11 (October 1807), 61–73, a positive review of Lancaster’s Outlines of a Plan for Educating Ten Thousand Poor Children, by establishing Schools in Country Towns and Villages; and for Uniting Works of Industry with Useful Knowledge (1806). BACK

[4] Clarkson’s A Portraiture of Quakerism, as taken from a View of the Moral Education, Discipline, Peculiar Customs, Religious Principles, Political and Civil Economy, and Character, of the Society of Friends (1806), reviewed in Edinburgh Review, 10 (April 1807), 85–102. The article concluded: ‘Upon the whole, we are inclined to believe the Quakers to be a tolerably honest, painstaking, and inoffensive set of Christians. Very stupid, dull, and obstinate … in conversation; and tolerably lumpish and fatiguing in domestic society; active and methodical in their business, and narrow minded and ill informed as to most other particulars: beneficent from habit and the discipline of the society; but cold in their affections … childish and absurd in their religious scruples and peculiar usages … but exemplary, above all other sects, for the decency of their lives, for their charitable indulgence … for their care of their poor, and for the liberal participation they have afforded to their women in all the duties and honours of the society’ (102). BACK

[5] Presumably the ridiculing of attack by Lancaster’s opponents on his Quakerism in Edinburgh Review, 17 (November 1810), 68, 83 n. *; and Edinburgh Review, 19 (November 1811), 26. Southey cited the comments of November 1810 (68) not in a note but in the main text of his The Origin, Nature and Object, of the New System of Education (London, 1812), p. 155. BACK

[6] An 1808 edition of Lancaster’s Improvements in Education; and probably Report of J. Lancaster’s Progress from the Year 1798 (1811). BACK

[7] Patrick Colquhoun (1745–1820; DNB). His A Treatise on Indigence was first published in 1799; and his A New and Appropriate System of Education for the Labouring People in 1806. Southey’s review of his Propositions for ameliorating the Condition of the Poor: and For Improving the Moral Habits, and Increasing the Comforts of the Labouring People (1812), appeared in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. BACK

[8] Beilby Porteus (1731–1809; DNB), bishop of London from 1791 to his death. A supporter of Bell, evangelicals and the abolition of the slave trade. An appendix to his A Letter to the Governors, Legislatures and Proprietors of Plantations in the British West-India Islands (1808) consisted of ‘a short sketch of the new system of education for the poor; in a letter from the Rev. Dr. Bell’. BACK

[9] John Bowles (1751–1819; DNB), barrister, author and anti-Jacobin. In 1811 he was involved in founding the National Society for the Education of the Poor. His A Letter Addressed to Samuel Whitbread, Esq. M.P., in consequnce of the Unqualified Approbation Expressed by Him … of Mr. Lancaster’s System of Education and its sequel, Education of the Lower Orders, A Second Letter to Samuel Whitbread … containing Observations on His Bill for the Establishment of Parochial Schools in South Britain both appeared in 1808. BACK

[10] A contraction of Virgil, Aeneid, Book 2, line 521, ‘non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis tempus eget’; ‘the times require other aid and other defenders than those you bring’; a reference to Bowles’ earlier involvement in the pursuit of English Jacobins and to the sullying of his reputation in 1809 when he was accused of fraud. BACK

[11] Charles Daubney (1745–1827), Archdeacon of Sarum and author of A Charge Delivered to the Clergy of the Archdeaconry of Sarum, on the 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th of June 1810 (1810). BACK

[12] The radical MP Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB). He took a close interest in poverty and the education of the poor; see for example, Substance of a Speech on the Poor Laws: Delivered in the House of Commons, on Thursday, February 19, 1807: with an Appendix by Mr. Whitbread (1807). BACK

[13] The ‘Epistle Dedicatory’ to Jeffrey was not included. BACK

[14] Henry the Sixth, Part II, Act II, Scene 1, lines 136–155. BACK

[15] The Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[16] Nelson’s refusal to prevent the execution of Neapolitan radicals in June–July 1799. Southey dealt with this matter briefly, but his views were plain, ‘a faithful historian is called upon to pronounce a severe and unqualified condemnation of Nelson’s conduct’, Life of Nelson, 2 vols (London, 1813), II, p. 51. BACK

[17] Southey disliked the Bourbon monarchy, which had been expelled from Naples by the French and had survived in Sicily because of British support. Its main sins in his eyes were its reactionary nature and its unwillingness to wage war against the French; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 422–437. BACK

[18] Southey’s review of The History of the Inquisitions; including the Secret Transactions of those Horrific Tribunals (1810); Letter upon the Mischievous Influence of the Spanish Inquisition as it actually exists in the Provinces under the Spanish Government. Translated from El Español, a periodical Spanish Journal published in London (1811); Narrativa da Perseguição de Hippolyto Joseph Da Costa Pereira Furtado de Mendonça, Natural da Colonia do Sacramento, no Rio-da-Prata, prezo e Processado em Lisboa pelo pretenso Crime de Fra-Maçon, ou Pedreiro Livre (1811), Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 313–357. BACK

[19] James Montgomery, The West Indies, and other Poems (1810) and The Wanderer in Switzerland, and other Poems (1811), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 405–419. BACK

[20] Alexander Chalmers (1759–1834; DNB), The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper (1810), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 11 (July 1814), 480–504, and Quarterly Review, 12 (October 1814), 60–90. BACK

[21] The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane had burnt down in 1809 and the new building was not opened until 10 October 1812. Whitbread headed the committee that raised funds for, and oversaw the rebuilding of, the theatre. BACK

[22] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Délivrée (1814). BACK

[23] i.e. Napoleon Bonaparte. Coleridge had fled Rome in 1806. He was worried the French occupation of Naples in January 1806, would be followed by an invasion of Rome – a matter of real concern as he feared Napoleon would punish him for his critical articles in the Morning Post. Lucien Bonaparte was living in retirement in Rome at this time. BACK

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August 2013