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

2138. Robert Southey to John Murray, 24 August 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Aug 24. 1812.

My dear Sir

I return this sheet to you rather than to the Printer [1]  for this reason. There are a few lines explanatory of what the writer proposed to himself in writing the life; the Printer has perhaps imagined that they are to serve as a Preface or Advertisement, but they are intended, somewhat after the manner of the Ancients, as the exordium of the book. & I meant that they {it} should stand after the heading, on a page or leaf by itself, before the first Chapter, [2]  – as in the History of Brazil. [3]  – If you are of opinion that this had better appear in customary form as an Advertisement, so be it; otherwise I must see a revise of the sheet, because there is no part of the whole book in which it {perfect correctness} is of so much consequence that I should satisfy myself as to the

The omission of the Contents occasions a trifling difficulty in which I must solicit the Printers assistance. I cannot recollect with perfect certainty how far each chapter extends, & therefore make out the heads with some apprehension. As he however will have set up the whole of the chapter, before he strikes {works} off the first sheet, he can easily strike out any such of the heads as may happen to belong to the second.

It is suggested to me by my friend Bedford that this is a book of which a certain number of large paper copies would be likely to sell, & to which the existence of such copies would give a sort of respectability. This I merely mention because he desires me to mention it, perfectly aware that it is a xxx matter of which you must be the best judge, & having no wish upon the subject myself.

It will be very proper to allude to the Reports which you mention. [4]  – The Article on Horne Tooke is exceedingly good. [5]  It is written with a perfect fairness of which not a single instance can be adduced from the Edinburgh Review. I do not recollect a more impudent specimen of party malice than appears the way in which Jeffrey speaks of Talavera in reviewing Don Roderick [6] 

believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

R Southey.

I prefer the Raisonnable, [7]  the English article being like the English flag at her mast head – a mark of conquest. [8] 


* Address: To/ Mr Murray/ Fleet Street/ London./ Single Proof Sheet inclosed
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 27 AU 27/ 1812
Watermark: lower part of shield/ 1806
Endorsement: 1812 Augst 12/ Southey. R –
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42550
Unpublished. BACK

[1] James Moyes (d. 1839), of Greville St, Hatton Garden, London. The letter concerns Southey’s Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[2] See Life of Nelson, 2 vols (London, 1813), I, p. [1]: ‘Many lives of Nelson have been written: one is yet wanting, clear and concise enough to become a manual for the young sailor, which he may carry about with him, till he has treasured up the example in his memory and in his heart. In attempting such a work, I shall write the eulogy of our great naval Hero; for the best eulogy of Nelson is the faithful history of his actions: the best history, that which shall relate them most perspicuously.’ BACK

[3] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, pp. 1–2. BACK

[4] Probably a reference to ‘Reports’ that Southey might use in the first of a series of articles on the poor, Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. BACK

[5] The assessment of a series of books on the radical and philologist John Horne Tooke (1736–1812; DNB), in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 313–328. BACK

[6] Scott’s Vision of Don Roderick (1811), appraised in Edinburgh Review, 18 (August 1811), 379–392. This highlighted a ‘decidedly vulgar’ passage in the Vision, adding that ‘if Mr Scott had never written any thing better, his poetical reputation would not at this moment have stood much higher than that of the author of the Battles of Talavera’ (388). The ‘author’ in question was Croker, whose The Battles of Talavera, first published in 1809 had gone into nine editions by 1812. BACK

[7] For example, Life of Nelson, 2 vols (London, 1813), I, p. 9. HMS Raisonnable was 64-gun ship of the line (1768–1815), named after a French ship captured in 1758. It was the first ship on which Nelson served. BACK

[8] I prefer … conquest: Written at top of fol 1r. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013