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

2038. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 13 February 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby. 13. 1812.

My dear Sir

I could give a much nearer guess at the intrinsic worth of a manuscript of Locke’s [1]  than at its marketable value. What that may be is extremely doubtful, – more, probably, for a philosophical work than a political one, – more for a religious one than either. There are two ways of proceeding in such a business, – either to publish it by subscription, or to offer it to the booksellers. If the owner has some active friends who would bestir themselves in good earnest to collect names for him, the former would be the best plan, because should the book prove of any permanent value, the property remains with him. But unless a couple of thousand subscribers could be procured, (which would require the exertions of several zealous friends) the latter plan is preferable, for I think the booksellers would be likely to give as much as could be gained by an edition of 1500 copies. Suppose you were to put the MSS. in your pocket, & call upon Duppa with it, – he knows something of these things & will shew it to the booksellers. Were I upon the spot I would gladly do this. Or if you think proper to see them yourself, no intro tho no introduction can be necessary upon a matter of business, my name if you like to make use of it, will serve as one both at Longmans house, & at Murrays. There is a publisher who would perhaps bid higher for it than either, – Sir Richard Phillips; – he would sell half an edition by mere dint of puffing. But if your friend thinks proper to go to him, – let him remember that he is dealing with one of the most accomplished rogues in his majestys dominions. – Whatever is done I should recommend that a slip of paper simply stating that such a work is in existence should be left at Sir Richards for announcement in the Monthly Magazine. This will cost only the trouble of writing the memorandum, – the notice will be widely diffused, & copied in other journals, & the expectation raised will benefit the sale of the work, & perhaps (very probably indeed) produce an overture from Sir Richard; – now the knowledge of what he would give for it would be of advantage wh if it were thought better to offer it to other publishers.

We have had a very variable winter, with severe & frequent storms, but on the whole, mild weather. Mr White [2]  is dead & has left his mistress 20,000 £ in the funds, she is also his residuary legatee & is which will very considerably increase the bequest. I could have wished that she would have gone some where else to enjoy this fortune, but she is in treaty for this new house next door to us, & I very much fear we shall have her for a neighbour, – a circumstance exceedingly unpleasant.

The Times of this post contains a most imprudent proclamation from Rio de Janeiro imposing restrictions upon the Lisbon Press: [3]  Jupiter seems determined to destroy the Braganzas, [4]  – & this madness with which he has long visited the family is beyond the reach either of experience or hellebore. I am grieved at it, because the obstinate system which his ministers pursue cannot be violently over thrown without great evil, & it would be easier effectually to reform it, than to bring about the least of the reforms which are perpetually agitated in England. The Portugueze have an excellent Government, which is suspended but has never been changed by any laws; – as good a Government as can well be imagined; little inferior to our own in theory, & for all foreign concerns better in practise. [5]  To restore this nothing more is needed than the Sic volo [6]  of the Prince; [7]  & I have no hesitation in saying that if we had a proper minister at his court that determination would be obtained, to the salvation of his family & the blessing both of Portugal & Brazil. It is madness to persist in this system, with a free press in Spain & in Buenos Ayres, it is as impossible to keep the Portugueze & Brazilians from knowing passing events, & feeling upon them as men must feel & ought to feel, as it would be to shut out the light of Heaven from his dominions.

The last Quarterly has two excellent articles by Barrow upon the Russian circumnavigation, & our Eastern conquests. [8]  Those upon Montgomery & the Inquisition are mine. [9]  I am busy upon the Ed. Register [10]  for 1810, the 8th sheet of which is now lying before me.

Mrs S. & her sisters Sarah Coleridge and Mary Lovell. beg to be remembered

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To / Colonel Peachy/ Brown’s Hotel/ Covent Garden/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 17 FE 17/ 1812
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 26–28. BACK

[1] The philosopher John Locke (1632–1704; DNB). The manuscript is unidentified. BACK

[2] William White (d. 1811), a wealthy man who had retired to Keswick. His mistress’s identity is unknown. BACK

[3] See The Times (12 February 1812). The edict (5 October 1811) forbad the licensing by the Lisbon censors of works which insulted the monarch and royal family; attacked Christianity; and commented positively or negatively on the Spanish Cortes. BACK

[4] The ruling house of Portugal and its colonies since 1640. BACK

[5] Medieval Portugal had developed a representative Cortes, but it had not met since 1698 and Portuguese monarchs were in practice absolute rulers. BACK

[6] ‘Thus I command’. BACK

[7] John VI (1767–1826), Prince Regent of Portugal 1799–1816, King of Portugal 1816–1826. BACK

[8] John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), in Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 357–391, reviewing Adam Johann von Krusenstern (1770–1826), Reise um die Welt in den Jahren 1803, 1804, 1805 und 1806 (1810); and 487–517, reviewing Charles Francois Tombe (fl. 1800s), Voyages aux Indes Orientales, pendant les anees 1802–3–4 & 6 (1810) and John Joseph Stockdale (1776/7–1847; DNB), Sketches, Civil and Military, of the Island of Java and its immediate Dependencies (1811). BACK

[9] James Montgomery, The West Indies, and other Poems (1810) and The Wanderer in Switzerland, and other Poems (1811), Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 405–419; 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

[10] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

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August 2013