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

2089. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, [early May 1812]⁠* 

I can make out nothing satisfactory respecting the Dutch & Portugueze boundaries in Africa. Ereceyra has not a word upon the subject. [1]  Xx The Treaty of 1648 [2]  which is the only one I can discover that touches upon it, has some precise stipulations on the part of the Dutch, – but the Portugueze seem not to have assented to them, & the Treaty itself was never ratified. You will find an extract on the next leaf, – tho I might have spared myself the trouble of making it; – for the Portugueze reply to these proposed articles that things shall be upon the same footing as they were found by the ten years truce. [3]  – Treaties between the Dutch & Portugueze respecting their boundaries were as little observed by one people as by the other, it is evident from the historians of both people that they both {each} equally aimed at deceiving the other, & the Portugueze right to any part of Africa has always been exactly what it is now – the right of occupancy & nothing else.

You make me smile by your news of Pelayo [4]  upon ‘good authority.’ Upon all my concerns no authority can be better than your own as I seldom fail to report progress to you when it is made in any of my numerous undertakings. The real state of the poem is that the fifth book is just finished, which as the books are very short, may be considered xxx {to be} about the proportion of one act to the whole tragedy. It has gone on like Kehama [5]  very slowly & for the same reasons, that I give very little time to it, & very often feel myself under a cloud respecting what is done.

Yesterday I received a letter from the Consul at Bahia, [6]  informing me that the Directors of the Public Library there had commissioned him to send me some MSS. respecting S. America. A note from the Foreign Office accompanied this agreable intelligence, saying that a large packet of papers was awaiting my direction. I write by this nights post to request they may be sent to Rickmans. I cannot make use of them, be they what they may, for the next two months – but you will like to overhaul them. Give me some account of their contents that I may know in what manner to express my thanks to Mr Frederick Lindeman his Letter is a very civil one, offering me his services in any way that may promote my object, & indeed whether the Papers may prove of much value or not, it is a very gratifying circumstance.

I shall give Mr Rose in due time a proper wipe for the manner in when he has mentioned the Epsom meeting. [7]  – What a business is this of Ponsonby [8]  & your friend the D.! [9]  & what a state must parties be in, when you find one set of men apologizing for what, if they do not take care, threatens to become an English Jacquerie in the manufacturing districts; [10]  – another continually goading on the Irish to rebellion, – & a third taking up this rascal Henry’s business [11]  & making that a crime of our own Government, which is in reality (even if admitted in the fullest extent), no more than what they would themselves have done {had they been} in administration; – what they ought to have done, – & what any men under such circumstances must have done. And yet this high & flagrant misdemeanour xxx xxx xxx xxx to give it the lightest appellation, passes unnoticed. The ministry cannot notice it, because the Prince himself has acted so culpably, & not a man is found independent enough & constitutional enough to lift up his voice in Parliament.

You said something to me of some remarks of Burns [12]  upon Ld Strangfords Treaty. [13]  They would be of great use to me just now.

I have promised J May to draw up a memoir of Mr Walpoles [14]  life for the Register, – but it must be next year. His correspondence will be sent me for this purpose, & will be useful in a more important business. I have some of his papers, – all of no value, except a xxx history of Comte la Lippe’s campaign, [15]  which Edith is transcribing for me, & a letter of Wm Stephens’ [16]  containing a xxx xxxx describing a visit to Pombal [17]  in his disgrace.

Goodens books [18]  prove very useful. The long sought life of P Joam de Almeida, [19]  tho it does not give what I expected to find there, nevertheless gives me much which is highly interesting. Jaboatam [20]  is by far the best author extant respecting Brazil. And the MS. apology of the Jesuits [21]  which I am now perusing contains much valuable information respecting that abominable business of the 7. Povos. [22] 

– When we take towns by storm we should let our allies pay off part of their long score. [23]  My Love to my Aunt & the young ones.



* Endorsements: Not dated; Written before the letter of Aug. 21. 1812 & after that of March 10. 1812 wch states Mr Goodens’ books to be on the road
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
Dating note: this letter was written the day after Southey received a letter from Bahia, concerning some books on Brazilian history. Southey to Charles Danvers, 9 May 1812 (Letter 2093) stated that he received the letter from Bahia ‘a few days ago’. BACK

[1] Luis de Meneses, 3rd Earl of Ericeira (1632–1690), Historia de Portugal Restaurado (1679–1698), no. 3587 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[2] The Treaty of Munster (1648) between Spain (which still claimed to rule Portugal, despite its declaration of independence in 1640) and the Netherlands. BACK

[3] The Treaty of The Hague (1641) stipulated a ten-year truce between the Netherlands and Portugal – though, in effect, it only applied to Europe. BACK

[4] The early name for Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[5] The Curse of Kehama had been started in 1801, but was not published until 1810. BACK

[6] Frederick Lindeman (dates unknown). BACK

[7] In the House of Commons on 25 February 1812, George Rose (1744–1818; DNB), Vice-President of the Board of Trade 1807–1813, had defended his Parish Registers Bill, which tightened up the regulations for recording births, marriages and deaths, and dismissed the protests of a meeting of Anglican clergy at Epsom. BACK

[8] George Ponsonby (1755–1817; DNB), Lord Chancellor of Ireland 1806–1807 and leader of the Whigs in the House of Commons 1807–1817. He had stated in a Commons debate on 24 April 1812, that when he was in office in 1806–1807, he and the Duke of Bedford had been told by the Prince Regent (George IV (1762–1830; Prince Regent 1811–1820, King of the United Kingdom 1820–1830; DNB) to communicate to Irish Catholics the Prince’s ‘favourable intentions’ towards them. BACK

[9] John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839), leading Whig in the House of Lords and Herbert Hill’s patron. Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1806–1807. BACK

[10] The Luddite movement, in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire. The Luddites smashed textile machinery as a threat to workers’ livelihoods. BACK

[11] John Henry (c. 1776–1853) was employed by the Canadian administration as a spy in Massachusetts, to sound out the strength of opposition to war with Britain in the United States. When he was refused payment he revealed his role to the United States government on 2 February 1812 in return for $50,000. The forged letters he produced suggested he had been employed to actively promote the secession of the New England States from the Union and played an important role in heightening Anglo-American tension. BACK

[12] William Burn (fl. 1770s-1810s), a member of the British Factory in Lisbon. BACK

[13] Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe, 6th Viscount Strangford (1780–1855; DNB), British envoy-extraordinary to the Portuguese court 1806–1814. He was responsible for the Treaty of 1808 between Portugal and Britain, which opened Brazil to commerce with friendly nations (i.e. primarily Britain). BACK

[14] Robert Walpole (1736–1810), Envoy Extraordinary to Portugal 1771–1800. BACK

[15] William, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe-Buckeburg (1724–1777), leading commander during the Seven Years War 1756–1763. He led the Portuguese army in 1762–1763 in a successful defence against a Spanish invasion. BACK

[16] William Stephens (1731–1803), owner and developer of the main glassworks in Portugal, known as the ‘Fabric’. BACK

[17] Sebastiao Jose de Carvalho e Melo, Marquess of Pombal (1699–1782), Prime Minister of Portugal 1750–1777. BACK

[18] Southey later publicly thanked Gooden for ‘the Life of F. Joam d’Almeida, among other books, and a manuscript Apology for the Jesuits in Paraguay and Maranham, of great importance’, see Southey’s History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, p. [v]. Also, Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 1 February 1812, Letter 2027. BACK

[19] Simon de Vasconcellos (1599–1670), Vida do Joam d’Almeida (1658). This was a life of the English-born Jesuit missionary, John Almeida (1571–1653). BACK

[20] Antonio de Santa Maria Jaboatao (1695–1763/1765), Novo Orbe Serafico Brazilico ou Chronica dos Frades Minores da Provincia do Brazil (1761). BACK

[21] An unidentified manuscript that Southey thanked Gooden for supplying in History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, p. [v]. BACK

[22] The Treaty of Madrid (1750) transferred to Portugal a tract of land on the east side of the Uruguay River. This contained seven Jesuit settlements, which were to be dismantled and rebuilt on Spanish territory on the other side of the river. The inhabitants resisted, leading to the War of the Seven Reductions, or Guarani War, in 1756–1757. BACK

[23] This may be a reference to the events following the storming of Badajoz on 6 April 1812, when the Anglo-Portuguese army indulged in 72 hours of murder, rape and looting against the civilian population. BACK

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August 2013