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

2041. Robert Southey to John Murray, 18 February 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby 18. 1812.

My dear Sir

I have a letter this evening from L. telling me he will do ‘precisely as I recommend’ & requesting me particularly to point out any other passages which should be cancelled. [1]  This I am exceedingly glad of, & shall lose no time in giving the book a second serious perusal, & censuring it while censure can be of service. [2]  Every thing which is legally or morally objectionable will now be got rid of, – there are some things which nei are neither the one nor the other, & yet which I could wish were not there, – the manner for instance for Canning is spoken of, [3]  – but of this I can only say that I wish it had not been written, not that I think it ought to be cancelled, – because public men like poets are liable to be spoken of well or ill according to the opinion of those who chuse to pass sentence upon them. The mention of Croker is decidedly wrong in matter of fact & of principle, [4]  – but in mere matters of opinion it would be foolish & presumptuous to require the writer to suppress his in deference to mine.

I am afraid I never replied to your question respecting the reviewal of Edgeworths book. [5]  It pleased me very much, – censure was never delivered in a better spirit, & the criticism was as much distinguished by its good sense as its good temper.

There is a book of Waltons about the Peruvian sheep (not his Spanish Colonies which I have) [6]  – that might serve as the text for the article respecting Peru: [7]  in which article I shall embody the matter of that Spanish volume xxxxxx which has so long been in my possession, & which if it can be purchased I should be very glad to make my own. [8]  The series of S upon Sp. America had better commence with Humboldt, because his name is before the public, – I hope to be ready with it for No 14. [9] 

Yrs very truly

R Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ Mr Murray/ Fleet Street/ London.
Postmark: E/ 21 FE 21/ 1812
Watermark: shield/ 1806
Endorsement: 1812 Feb 18/ Southey R
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42550
Unpublished. BACK

[1] At the request of Murray, Southey had read a MS of Landor’s Commentary on Memoirs of Mr Fox, which was ostensibly a response to John Bernard Trotter’s (1775–1818; DNB) laudatory account of his erstwhile employer Charles James Fox. See Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 10 February 1812 (Letter 2034) and 11 February 1812 (Letter 2035), and Robert Southey to John Murray 15 February 1812 (Letter 2039). Although the Commentary was printed, Murray eventually suppressed its publication, refusing to issue a book that attacked the Tory government and was dedicated to James Madison (1751–1836), President of the United States 1809–1817, with whom Britain was about to go to war. BACK

[2] Southey offered Landor further advice; see Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 21 February 1812, Letter 2043. BACK

[3] Charles James Fox: a Commentary on his Life and Character by Walter Savage Landor, ed. Stephen Wheeler (1907), p. 216. ‘He was a very extraordinary boy, and is a very extraordinary boy still. He has not grown an inch in intellect … [he is] answerable to the country for the loss of five thousand men, and for the worst of all our badly planned attacks [the Walcheren expedition of 1809]. Canning is among those sour productions, which acquire an early tinge of maturity, and drop off. It is idleness or unwariness in those who pick them up and taste them, and folly or shame in those who do not spit them out.’ BACK

[4] Landor removed any mention of Croker from his book. BACK

[5] The article by John Davison (1777–1834; DNB) on Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744–1817; DNB), Essays on Professional Education, 2nd edn (1812), Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 166–191. Professional Education was largely the work of Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849; DNB), though only her father was credited on the title page. BACK

[6] William Walton (1783/4–1857; DNB). He had been junior secretary to the British expedition which captured Santo Domingo from the French in 1802, and had remained there as British agent. He returned to England in 1809 and developed a career as a political journalist, arguing against ministerial policies towards Spain and Portugal. His writings included Present State of the Spanish Colonies; Including a Particular Report of Hispanola, or the Spanish Part of Santo Domingo (1810), no. 2978 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. A keen agriculturalist, Walton was also an advocate for the importation of ‘Peruvian sheep’ (vicuna) and alpacas into Britain, see his An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Four Species of Peruvian Sheep, called Carneros de la Tierra: To which are Added, Particulars Resepcting the Domestication of the Two Wild Species, and the Experiments hitherto made by the Spaniards, to Cross the Respective Breeds, to Improve Their Wools (1811). BACK

[7] This was not written. BACK

[8] Probably a reference to: ‘Descripcion de las Provincias Pertenecientes al Arzobispado di Lima’; no. 3645 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, inscribed in his hand: ‘This book of which perhaps a duplicate is nowhere to be found, was given me by Mr Murray; it contains the fullest account which has yet been published on the old Vice-royalty of Peru, province by province. The information was obtained from the respective Corregidores, and printed for many successive years in the Lima Almanack, from whence some curioso cut out the whole collection, and formed them into this most valuable volume’. BACK

[9] Southey did not review works by Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) for the Quarterly. BACK

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August 2013