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

2136. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 16 August 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Aug. 16. 1812.

The last tidings which I heard of you was by your letter to Harry, which he brought to St Helens on the day of its arrival. His removal may now be looked upon as a thing determined, & the determination seems on his part a wise one. [1]  No man can better understand that part of the world with which he will have to deal, his manners will bring his talents into play, & his talents support his professional character against any injury that it might suffer from his manners. I have little doubt of his success, & in case of failure a staff-appointment which there could be no difficulty in obtaining would amply indemnify him for all he leaves at Durham.

On my way back I past a day with Morritt (the Trojan) at Rokeby, [2]  one of the finest places I ever saw. Having seen Teesdale & Richmond (a singularly beautiful town, partaking in its character of the features of Ludlow, Glastonbury & Durham) I returned thro Wensley dale, went a little out of my way to see the Yorkshire Caves & Gordale Scar & xxxxx returned home after an absence of twelve days, & a round of 300 miles, 200 of which I had walked. This journey seems to have braced me up & put me (as the fancy would say) in fine condition for the season. I have been writing with new spirits since my return. The long-delayed life of Nelson [3]  is sent to the press, & will as far as I am concerned be finished by the end of the month. I am also running a good heat with Pelayo, or rather with Roderick [4]  as the poem ought to be called. – Kehama [5]  is gone to the press again, which omens well for this next adventure.

The third years Register [6]  reached me last week. The ballad of the Inchcape rock [7]  which some unknown person has thought proper to touch up & transmit for insertion, is an old newspaper composition of mine, which has lain uncorrected among my papers for the last ten years. The life of Beddoes  [8]  is by Gooch. – For the life of Aguirre [9]  I got about 33 £, – so many weighty reasons why it is better there than in its original place. – The observation respecting madness with which it is introduced seems to me to be a very important one. You will it see it repeated & illustrated in the last number of the Quarterly. [10]  – Pray make one alteration in your copy page 413 & instead of “transcendant as may have been the pilots merits”, read as I wrote “whatever may have been &c. I am displeased & hurt at this alteration, which belies me & makes me imply commendation where I have most studiously avoided it. The article is in other respects a good deal the worse for the omissions which have been made in it, – these however are trifles compared with a liberty of this kind.

For the next number I have a weighty task before me, – the state of the poor. [11]  You may be sure I shall not write like a political oeconomist a breed of Scotch origin who seem to have succeeded the casuists & the schoolmen, having all their {the} dullness {&} xxxx xxx prolixity of both, but neither the depth of the one, nor the acuteness of the other. I have that sort of unwillingness about beginning this subject, which is the best symptom that I shall get thro it to my own satisfaction. – The Greek in the last number is my old friend Elmsley’s. [12]  – Does it not surprize you to see Warburtons Julian spoken of as convincing? [13]  – The first article is written by Blanco. [14] 

The remarks in the Register upon the two penny Reformers Messrs Bankes & Co  [15] – come from Rickman.

I have heard of a set of Muratori, [16]  wanting one volume & therefore to be sold marvellously cheap, so I have desired John May if it be not gone to secure it for me, as it lies in his weekly walk – thro Holburn. This will be a treasure if I can obtain it.

Dr Bell is coming here for a week. Bedford arrived this morning & thro him I am about to try for a ship for Tom, or for the next step, tho with less prospect of success than if Mr Perceval had been living. Croker however is my friend, & Scott tells me that I am in the good graces of Lord Melville. [17]  I need not say to you how little I can brook the late measures xx xxxx as they regard America, [18]  – still worse as they regard the Catholicks. [19]  Things could hardly look better abroad – or worse at home. It seems to me that the proudest days of England are to come but that her happiest days are over – & that neither Church nor State will last half a century longer. God grant that I may be mistaken.

Remember me to my Aunt. I shall not see her before April for the Register [20]  must be finished by that month. – How go on my cousins? Herbert is learning Greek, in easy lessons, at a slow & sure rate.



* Address: To / The Reverend Herbert Hill / Streatham / Surry
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Henry Herbert Southey had moved from Durham to London; see Southey to John May, 30 July 1812, Letter 2129. BACK

[2] John Bacon Sawrey Morritt (1771–1843; DNB), traveller, classical scholar and member of the Society of Dilettanti. He had gained the nickname ‘Troy’ for his endeavours to prove that the city had been a real place, not an invention of Homer. He owned the Rokeby estate, where he entertained a large circle, including Humphry Davy and Walter Scott. BACK

[3] Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[4] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[5] The third edition of The Curse of Kehama (1810) appeared in 1812. BACK

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

[7] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.2 (1812), lxxxiv–lxxxvi. It had first appeared in Morning Post, 19 October 1803. BACK

[8] ‘Life of Beddoes’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.2 (1812), 516–537. BACK

[9] ‘History of the Life of Lope de Aguirre’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.2 (1812), i–l. Lope de Aguirre (c. 1510–1561) was a Spanish conquistador in South America. Southey had originally intended to include this account of his life in the first volume of his History of Brazil (1810–1819). His essay was prefaced by a brief introduction, which asserted ‘Power, which intoxicates weak men, makes wicked ones mad’ (p. l). BACK

[10] Southey’s review of Biographie Moderne: Lives of Remarkable Characters who have distinguished themselves from the Commencement of the French Revolution to the present time, Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 412–438. The alteration that Southey objected to concerned his remarks about William Pitt (1759–1806; Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806; DNB), of whom he was a constant critic. BACK

[11] Southey’s review of Patrick Colquhoun (1745–1820; DNB), Propositions for ameliorating the Condition of the Poor: and For Improving the Moral Habits, and Increasing the Comforts of the Labouring People (1812), appeared in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. Rickman had had some input, probably supplying notes and ideas. BACK

[12] Elmsley’s review of Jeremiah Markland (1693–1776; DNB), Euripides Supplices Mulieres, Iphigenia in Aulide, et in Tauris, cum Notis Jer. Marklandi (1811) in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 441–464. BACK

[13] In the review of Richard Hurd (1720–1808; DNB), The Works of the Right Rev. William Warburton, D. D., Lord Bishop of Gloucester (1811), Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 383–407, esp. 404. This was a comment on William Warburton (1668–1779; DNB), Julian: or a Discourse Concerning the Earthquake and Fiery Eruption (1750). The book was a very controversial endorsement of the idea that divine intervention stopped Julian (331–363; Roman Emperor 361–363) rebuilding the Temple at Jerusalem. BACK

[14] Blanco White’s review of William Walton (1783/4–1857; DNB), Present State of the Spanish Colonies; Including a Particular Report of Hispanola, or the Spanish Part of Santo Domingo (1810), appeared in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 235–264. BACK

[15] Henry Bankes (1757–1834; DNB), MP for Corfe Castle 1780–1826. Southey expressed his disapproval of Bankses’ campaign to abolish sinecures and the granting of reversion to state offices in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.1 (1812), 207–218. BACK

[16] Lodovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750). Southey hoped that May could buy Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, Ab. Anno 500 Ad Annum 1500, 36 vols (1723–70). In fact, May purchased Muratori’s Annali d’Italia dal Principio dell’era Volgare sino all’anno 1750 (1786); no. 1894 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, though this lacked the first volume; see Southey to John May, 16 September 1812, Letter 2145. Southey later did manage to obtain a copy of Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, no. 1922 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[17] Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville (1771–1851; DNB), who had become First Lord of the Admiralty earlier in 1812. BACK

[18] The United States had declared war on Britain on 18 June 1812, in ignorance of Britain’s decision, on 16 June 1812, to try and avoid this event, by suspending the Orders in Council which prevented American trade with French-controlled territories. BACK

[19] The new Cabinet formed by Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool (1770–1827; DNB) on 8 June 1812 was ‘neutral’ on the question of Catholic Emancipation. BACK

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

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August 2013