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

2191. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [started before and continued on] 18–20 December [1812] ⁠* 

My dear Tom

I send you Bryan Edwards 3 vol. [1]  Robertsons America [2]  3. Caribbeana [3]  2. Holmes’s American Annals, [4]  (the model you are to follow in your text) 2. Labat. [5]  8. Charlevoix. [6]  4. Munoz. [7]  P. Martire. [8]  Smith. [9]  xx Davis of Kidwellys [10]  translation of a French work which I should guess to be Rocheforts if there were not some slight xxx reasons for doubting it, & the Buccaneers. [11] 

Munoz will be your best guide as far {as} he goes, tho you will glean a good deal from old Pietro Martire. Your first sentence should be relate the discovery of the St Salvadore, [12]  the history of the voyage you may leave alone. Write in half-a-dozen books at once & you will never be at a loss where to go on, – from Munoz about the first part Columbus’s transactions, – Charlevoix about the French in St Domingo (his last two volumes) – Labat about the other French islands. [13]  Labat will amuse you much, & furnish not only abundant materials for the annals, but plenty of excellent omniana for the notes. I sent for Du Tertre [14]  an earlier & fuller French writer of prime authority, but by no means so able a man as this satyr-like Dominican. The book when it came was xxx xxx wanted almost its prints, which constitute great part of its book-value on account of the engraver, so I returned it, but I shall purchase the first good copy which I can find. Meantime you may perhaps discover it in one of the Durham Libraries. It’s title is Histoire Generale des Antilles par le Pere Du Tertre four volumes of the old French quarto size, which is between our quarto & the Spanish, – a sort of mule, neither so small as one nor so big as the other. Being an old book & a good one it is likely enough to be in one those collections. You will be sure to find some books to your purpose there & had better make use of them while they are in your reach, because if you should get a ship at any time you may take mine to sea. Xxx

I send Holmes that you may see exactly the nature of a chronological history. Only yours must be more abundant in notes & miscellaneous matter so that the moral & physical history may be given as well as the succession of civil events. – You shall work upon Herrara [15]  when next you come here; & some of my other Spaniards. Oviedo [16]  will supply some fine materials, many of which have had my landmarks set against them for some years. – I have a clear second sight of a very curious & important book.

The parcel went off on Monday. It is directed to Mr Castles. [17] 

Dec 18.

Hurra for the Attaman Platoff [18]  & the Cossacks & the Russians & the Generals with unutterable names, hurra, hurra – Oh Tom that you were but here to hurra with me, over this evening news! I dined at Ponsonbys [19]  yesterday, we talked of the affairs of the North & Calvert, (who might have risen to excellence as a Chemist or a Mathematician or a General – or a Poet, if he had not thrown away all his ardour, & all his genius upon a pursuit which of all others requires the least) said what he would have done with Buonaparte if xxx he were taken prisoner. He would put him in the open country, & pile round him xxx a huge mound of the dead who had perished in his flight, with their faces turnd toward him, as they had stiffened in their agonies, – xx xxx xxx xxx xx xxxx xx xxx xxx xx xxx xx xxx so that which-ever way he looked those ghastly faces & dead eyes should be xxx upon him – & there xxx xxxx xx xxx {xxx leave xxx the Tyrant} to stiffen & freeze in the midst of them. – There is a grandeur in the thought which perfectly galvanised me. It would not only be the fittest punishment & worthy catastrophe of such a tragedy but it would be the finest & most aweful circumstance in human history past or to come.

He I fear will make a run for it & get into Poland. And I think that both Austria & Prussia will play a miserable part, & prevent Russia from crushing him – They will be jealous of Russia, & very probably may think that if they act as mediators, & make up a peace, they may obtain restitution of some of their lost territory from Buonoparte in his weakness. From the North of Germany, there is more to be hoped, & I wish to Heaven we had 20000 men to land there. I would offer to the Dutch Batavia & the Spice Islands – & a free trade with the Cape. – But if the settling of the Continent were mine I would form Holland & Flanders & Hanover into one Commonwealth, & give them Louis Buonaparte [20]  if they liked him for their President or Stadtholder. I would have the whole of Italy in another, or if the age of commonwealths is not yet come, & I should be fain to content myself not with the best I could wish but the best I could get, then in reference to the interests & inclination of Austria, the little King of Rome [21]  should be King of Italy, & Lucien [22]  made his guardian, & France reduced to its old limits might take what ruler or form of government it would: An explosion in France is very probable when the total destruction of the Grand army is known.

I have had a copy made of Mrs Danvers’s picture, & Robert Hancock [23]  has had the grace to send me as a present from himself a picture of Charles, which is invaluable – I never saw a more perfect likeness.

The 15th sheet of Nelson [24]  arrived to night. Did I tell you that owing to the miscalculation of Murray & the Printer between them they make it two volumes instead of one? – their blunder, & not mine, for I told them the extent of the MSS. This will make me write a few pages more than I should otherwise have done in order to balance the volumes, & when the first edition sells Murray must condense them into one, according to his original intention, by means of a fuller page, – here is a sheet of Register [25]  before me with good matter about the Catholics.

Sunday 20.

Such another days work as I have done this morning will finish the tenth book of Roderick, [26]  & with it the great difficulty of the poem will be got over, a difficulty so great that if it be got over well, I may call it like the Biscayan Grammar El Imposible vancido. [27]  This difficulty consists in showing how it was possible that a character such as Roderick is represented, could have committed the crime which xxxx renders him infamous. As far as is possible I think I shall succeed, & in point of skill, this will be as Juniper [28]  said my master-piece. Being in the vein I shall wish my noble Admiral xxxx farewell, & go to it again for the remainder of the evening. Our love to Sarah. – Do not let me forget to say in case of another fall upon the scrapes, or any cut, – that the easiest & most efficacious of all styptics is the dust of that fungus which is called the Devils powder-puff, or his snuff-box. Gather the next you meet with for this purpose. John Wesley furnished me with the fact. [29]  I have had one for some years at hand & the other day when Edith had pricked a vein, xx {blood} was instantly xxxx staunched. – This same powder burnt under a hive will stupify the bees.

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Capt Southey. R. N./ St. Helens/ Auckland
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Bryan Edwards (1743–1800; DNB), The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies (1793). Southey possessed a later edition of 1807, no. 986 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[2] William Robertson (1721–1793; DNB), The History of America (1788), no. 2456 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Samuel Keimer (1689–1742; DNB), Caribbeana: – Containing Letters and Dissertations, together with Poetical Essays, &c. chiefly wrote by Several Hands in the West Indies (1741), no. 450 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] Abiel Holmes (1763–1837), American Annals (1808), no. 1349 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Jean-Baptiste Labat (1663–1738), Nouveau Voyage aux Iles de l’Amerique (1722), no. 1582 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix (1682–1761), Histoire de l’Isle Espagnole, ou de Saint Dominque (1730). Southey owned an edition of 1733, no. 574 no. 1263 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] Juan Bautista Muñoz (1745–1799) was commissioned to write an official account of Spanish involvement in the New World. Part of his researches appeared as Historia del Nuevo-Mundo (1793), the rest were unpublished at his death. Southey owned an English translation of 1797, no. 1263 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] Pietro Martire d’Anghiera (1457–1526). His De Orbe Novo (1511–1530) provides important early accounts of the exploration and colonisation of Central and South America. Southey is probably referring to the English translation by Richard Eden (c. 1520–1576; DNB), The Decades of the Newe Worlde or West India: Conteyning the Navigations and Conquestes of the Spanyards (1555); Southey owned an edition of 1612, no. 1862 in the sale catalogue of his library. (Southey also owned a Latin edition of 1574, no. 1811 in the sale catalogue of his library.) BACK

[9] John Smith (1562/1563–1616; DNB), The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England and the Summer Isles (1624), no. 2645 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] John Davies (1625–1693; DNB), The History of Barbadoes, St Christophers, and the rest of the Caribby Islands (1666), no. 715 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. The book was a translation of Charles de Rochefort (1605–1683), Histoire Naturelle et Morale des Iles Antilles de l’Amerique (1658). BACK

[11] Alexandre Esquemelin (1645–1707), De Americaeneche Zee Roovers (1678). Southey’s copy, no. 927 in the sale catalogue of his library, was a ‘Presentation Copy from Capt. Burney’. The Spanish translation, Piratas de la America (1681), no. 1462 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, contained much extra material. The first English translation appeared in 1684 as Bucaniers of America and followed the Spanish version. BACK

[12] The island in the Bahamas that was Christopher Columbus’s (1451–1506) first landfall in 1492. BACK

[13] Primarily Martinique and Guadelupe. BACK

[14] The missionary and botanist Jean-Baptiste du Tertre (1610–1687), Histoire Generale des Antiles habitées par les François (1667). Southey later obtained a copy, no. 2828 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[15] Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1559–1625), Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano (1601–1615). Southey possessed an edition of 1728, no. 3563 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[16] José de Oviedo y Banos (1671–1738), Historia de la Conquista, y Poblacion de Venezuela (1723), no. 3605 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[17] Samuel Castle (d. 1815), a Durham solicitor and father-in-law of Tom Southey. BACK

[18] Matvei Ivanovitch Platov (1757–1818), Ataman (Commander) of the Don Cossacks. He became a Count of the Russian Empire as a reward for harrying the French forces on their retreat from Moscow in late 1812. BACK

[19] Lieutenant John Ponsonby (dates unknown). He was a Royal Navy officer who lived at Ormathwaite and had given Southey information about the Battle of Copenhagen (1801). BACK

[20] Napoleon’s brother, Louis Bonaparte (1778–1846), King of Holland 1806–1810. Napoleon deposed him in 1810 and he was in exile in Austria 1811–1813. BACK

[21] Napoleon’s only son, Napoleon Francois Joseph Charles (1811–1832), King of Rome 1811–1814. BACK

[22] Napoleon’s brother, Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840). He had fallen out with Napoleon and was an exile in Italy 1804–1810 and a prisoner in Britain 1810–1814. BACK

[23] Robert Hancock (1731–1817; DNB) had made a pencil and chalk drawing of Southey in 1797. He had also drawn Danvers and Danvers’s mother. BACK

[24] Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

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

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

[27] Manuel Larramendi (1690–1766), El Imposible Vencido: Arte de la Lengua Bascongada (1729), a guide to Basque. Southey’s copy was no. 1606 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[28] Juniper (dates unknown), a Bristol carpenter who built book cases for Southey. BACK

[29] John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB), Primitive Physic: or, an easy and natural method of curing most diseases (1773), p. 31. Southey noted this remedy in J. W. Warter (ed.), Southey’s Common-Place Book, 4 vols (London, 1849–1851), II, p. 598. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013