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

2129. Robert Southey to John May, 30 July 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. July 30. 1812.

My dear friend

The waggon by which I used to send my packages from London, went, & I suppose continues to go, from the Bull & Mouth. My letter-direction is sufficient, – Keswick – Cumberland. I shall have great interest in perusing Mr Walpoles correspondence, & expect to derive from it an information not to be obtained from any other source. [1] 

I returned home on Saturday evening the 25th. after an absence of twelve days, & a round of 300 miles, of which rather more than 200 were performed on foot. My brother Henry is at length determined upon trying his fortune at {in} London, at the West end of the town, an adventure of the most tempting kind, & for which he is every way qualified, – except so far as regards the means of supporting two or three years of non-employment. Sealey [2]  has now offered to assist him, & no person who knows Harry has any doubt of his success. He takes with him the practice of all the great Northern families within his reach, who will employ him henceforth in the winter, instead of in the summer.

For myself I am returned to a renewal of labour, which must delay my intended visit to Streatham & its vicinity. I found letters on my return stating that it was of the greatest importance to the success of the Register, [3]  & perhaps essential to its continuance, that in future it should be published in March instead of July. Now if I can be ready, no other person concerned can have any apology for delay. My means of support are so vitally interested in the success of this work that I must not omit any effort which may further it. So I recommence my labours without delay, – a heavy labour, – but one which I set about with a light heart & a willing & strong spirit. The volume for 1810 is published, [4]  & will probably come to your hands before you are ready for it. The debates are upon the same scale as in the two former years. I shall endeavour henceforward to reduce it, in order to gain room for the pen affairs of the peninsula. You will see that I was obliged to defer the affairs of Spanish & South America till the ensuing year. [5] 

We are suffering much inconvenience from the failure of the Workington Bank [6]  which supplied almost the whole circulation of Keswick. I have thirty {£} of its notes; – at present the cry is that they are worth nothing, but I rather expect that they will prove at least worth half-price.

I found another piece of intelligence on my return of a pleasanter nature. The second edition of Kehama [7]  is so nearly gone, that it is time to put another to press. This is for me, a rapid sale, & augurs well for the future. If the tide which has thus at last begun to flow should continue, another year will square my accounts with Longman, & then I shall begin to derive some yearly income from a capital of xxx labour which for many years has been almost unproductive. The sale of Kehama I attribute not to any merit of its own, but to Scotts account of it in the Quarterly, [8]  & to the reputation which I have obtained by writing in the Quarterly myself. It is one of the many absurdities of this age that a man obtains more credit for an article in the Review, than for the best work which he could possibly produce upon the same subject, if his name were affixed to the volume. However it is of little consequence to me in what manner the reputation has been obtained; in a fair way I am sure it has been, & I am sure too that tho it does not rest upon the proper ground, it is well deserved. All that concerns me is that it affects favourably the marketable value of my produce. I shall be tempted by the success of Kehama to move a little faster with Pelayo. [9] 

I trouble you with the inclosed letter of thanks for Anchietas Grammar & the Valeroso Lucideno, [10]  because I know not how to send it, & you can probably find means of conveying it to its destination by some channel which will prevent any charge of postage, – an unseemly thing for a letter upon such an occasion. I should be much gratified if you could from time to time procure for me, thro your brother, [11]  all such publications as appear from at Rio Janeiro, – an order which in the present state of Brazilian literature may safely be given. There are a number of political brochures noticed in the Correio Braziliense [12]  which would be very useful to me. I find that the booksellers shops there are much better stocked than I had supposed. Will you request him to see if he can procure for me Vasconcellos’s Vida do P. Joam de Almeida, [13]  & – Jaboatam’s Orbe x Serafico Novo Brazilico, [14]  & the works of Lozano, [15]  Montoya, [16]  & Xarque [17]  respecting Paraguay. They are all Jesuit historians, & will be well known by the Brazilian booksellers, tho I do not know the exact titles of their works.

I am very anxious to see my Brazil [18]  compleated, both from the interest I take in the subject, & because my Portugueze history [19]  may then immediately succeed it in the Press, & a whole shelf full of labour turn to account. Tis a perverse humour in the age to draw me from those pursuits wh for which I, & I alone, am fitted, – to {that it may} employ me upon what fifty or five-hundred others could do if not equally, at least sufficiently well.

God bless you

Yrs affectionately

R Southey.


* Address: [in another hand] Wrexham August Five/ Put in the Fourth/ John May Esqr/ Richmond/ Surry/ C W Williams Wynn
Stamped: WREXHAM/ 198
Postmarks: C / 6 AU 6/ 1814; [illegible]
Endorsements: No. 160. 1812/ Robert Southey/ Keswick 30th July/ recd. 17th August/ ansd. 20th do
MS: Brotherton Library, University of Leeds
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Robert Walpole (1736–1810), Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal, 1771–1800. Southey had been asked to write his life. BACK

[2] Richard Sealy (1752–1821), merchant based in Lisbon. He was the father of Henry Herbert Southey’s first wife, Mary Harriet. BACK

[3] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813). BACK

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

[5] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 367–421. BACK

[6] The Workington Bank, along with other country banks, had failed earlier in 1812. It is estimated that its customers lost £105,000 in total. BACK

[7] The second edition of The Curse of Kehama had been published in 1811, a third appeared in 1812. BACK

[8] See Quarterly Review, 5 (February 1811), 40–61. However, Southey was not always as sanguine about the potential or actual impact of the review, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 January 1811, Letter 1848. BACK

[9] The early incarnation of what became Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[10] The Marcos de Noronha e Brito, Conde dos Arcos (1771–1828), Governor General of Bahia 30 September 1810–26 January 1818, had sent Southey copies of José de Anchieta (1534–1597), Arte de Grammatica da Lingoa mais Usada na Costa do Brasil (1595) and Manuel Calado (1584–1654), Valeroso Lucideno e o Triunfo da Liberdade (1648), a first-hand account of Brazil during the period of Dutch rule. Both had been on the list of books wanted in Southey, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, p. [vi]. BACK

[11] William Henry May (1785–1849), May’s youngest brother and business partner in Brazil. BACK

[12] The Correio Braziliense (also known as the ‘Literary Warehouse’) was a journal in Portuguese. Edited by Hipolito Jose da Costa (1774–1823), it was printed in London and ran from 1808–1822. It was critical of the Portuguese monarchy and advocated liberal ideas. Southey possessed a complete set, no. 3203 in the Sale catalogue of his Library. BACK

[13] Simão de Vasconcellos (1596–1671), Vida do P. Joam de Almeida (1658). BACK

[14] Antonio de Santa Maria Jaboatão (1695–1763/5), Orbe Serafico Novo Brazilico (1761). BACK

[15] Pedro Lozano (1697–1752), Historia de la Compañia de la Jesús de la Provincia del Paraguay (1755). BACK

[16] Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (1585–1652), Conquista Espiritual hecha por los Religiosos de la Compañia de la Jesus en la Provincias del Paraguay, Parana, Uruguay, y Tape (1639). BACK

[17] Francisco Xarque (1609–1691), Insignes, Missioneros de la Compañia de Jesus Paraguay (1687). BACK

[18] The History of Brazil, published in three volumes 1810–1819. BACK

[19] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’ was never completed. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013