2010. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 31 December 1811 

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

2010. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 31 December 1811 ⁠* 

The hint which I threw out concerning our English martyrs in writing upon the Evangelical Sects is likely to mature into something of importance. [1]  I conceived a plan which Dr Bell & the Bp. of Meath [2]  took up xxx warmly, & the former has in some degree bound me to execute it by sending down Fox’s Book of Martyrs [3]  as soon as he reached London. The projected outline is briefly this. Under the title of the Book of the Church [4]  to give what should at once be the philosophy & the anthology of our Church History, so written as to be addressed to the hearts of the young, & the understandings of the old, – for it will be placed upon the Establishment of the National Schools. [5]  It begins with an account of the xx various false religions of our different ancestors, British, Roman & Saxon, – with the mischievous temporal consequences of those superstitions, being the evils from which the country was delivered by its conversion to Xtianity. 2dly. a picture of Popery & of the evils from which the Reformation delivered us. 3 Puritanism rampant – from which the restoration of the Church rescued us, lastly Methodism from which the Establishment preserves us. These parts to be connected by an historical thread, containing whatever is most impressive in the Acts & Monuments of the English church. How beautiful a work may be composed upon such a plan, (which from its very nature excludes whatever is uninviting or tedious) you will at once perceive. The civil history would form a companion work upon a similar plan called the Book of the Constitution, [6]  showing the gradual x xx but uniform amelioration of society; – & the direct object of both would be to make the rising generation feel & understand the blessings of their inheritance.

Each of these works would extend to about as much as would fill from 80 to 100 pages of the Quarterly. For the two, Murray offers me 500£. His letter came to night, – I had written yesterday to Turner to consult with him as to the terms which ought to be made, [7]  & shall wait his advice, – for the advantages which these books would enjoy thro Dr Bell are such as to afford a probability of greater emolument than I should be justified in foregoing even for such a price as this.

I am well stored with materials, having all the republished Chronicles, [8]  & Hooker, – the only controversial work which it will be at all necessary to consult. [9]  The only other books which I want I have orderd – they are Burnett, & the Ch. Histories of Fuller & of the stiff old Non juror Jeremy Collier. [10]  – I will send the manuscript to you before it goes to the press, for it will require an inspecting eye, – meantime if any thing occur to you which would correct or improve the plan, such as you here see it, do not omit to communicate your advice & opinion. I have a strong persuasion that both these works may be made of great, extensive & permanent usefulness.

The enlarged article on the New System is in the press, [11]  – but the teeth of the argument are likely once more to be extracted, – an operation to which I submit with exemplary patience. Questions of prudence, such as this must be, I leave willingly to Murray. Both he & Giffard urge me to a deadly attack upon the Edinburghers, to be brought forth xxxx in perfect secresy under some {such} title as the Beauties of the E. Rev. [12]  I neither want power nor provocation for this, – but unless somebody will turn mud-lark for me, & rake in the Flowers of Edinburgh to make the collection, – the thing must remain undone – my stomach could never be brought to the task.


Dec. 31. 1811

Tom has not got at the precise meaning of the phrase concerning which he applied to you. – el segundo quadrante [13]  &c – he takes the quadrantes to be the cardinal points. x xx but if xxx how many in that case el segundo quadrante would be East.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 3 JAN 3/ 1812; [partial] 10o’Clock/ 1812
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 320–321 [in part]. BACK

[1] In 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

[2] Thomas Lewis O’Beirne (1747–1823; DNB), Bishop of Meath 1798–1823. The son of a County Longford farmer, he had been educated for the Catholic priesthood, but converted to Protestantism and became a Church of Ireland clergyman. He had been a well-known Whig, but by 1811 he was increasingly conservative and a defender of the Church of Ireland. BACK

[3] John Foxe (1517–1587; DNB), Actes and Mounuments (1563). Southey possessed an edition of 1684, no. 975 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[4] Southey’s projected Book of the Church was eventually published in 1824. BACK

[5] Anglican schools founded by the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Christian Church, set up by Bell in November 1811. BACK

[6] The ‘Book of the Constitution’ was never written. BACK

[7] The letter to Turner appears not to have survived. BACK

[8] Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1807–1812), no. 654 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] Richard Hooker (1554–1600; DNB), The Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie (1594–1597), which argued for Anglicanism as a middle way between Puritanism and Catholicism, the role of reason in religion and a historical understanding of the Bible – all approaches that appealed to Southey. The book was no. 1427 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] Gilbert Burnet (1643–1715; DNB), History of the Reformation of the Church of England (1679–1714); Thomas Fuller (1607/8–1661; DNB), The Church History of Britain (1655); and Jeremy Collier (1650–1726; DNB), An Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain (1708–1714). Collier was a bishop in the non-juring church which refused to accept the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Southey had ordered these books from Murray. BACK

[11] Southey’s The Origin, Nature and Object, of the New System of Education (1812) was an expansion of his advocacy of Andrew Bell in Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. At Bell’s request, Southey’s attacks on Brougham, Jeffrey and others were moderated before publication; see Southey to Andrew Bell, 30 December 1811, (Letter 2008) and Southey to John Murray [c. 30 December 1811] (Letter 2009). BACK

[12] This project was not realised. BACK

[13] i.e. ‘the second quadrant’. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013