2208. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 20 January 1813 

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

2208. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 20 January 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany. 20. 1813.


I am obliged to you for the compliment which you pay me in your last letter, wherein speaking of your youngest daughter you tell me that every body says she is like me, – that you thought so when she was born, but {that you} do not see the likeness now, & then you add “she is much improved in beauty since then.” Sir if you had been writing to Capt McGaw with a face as broad as a broad frying pan, [1]  you would not have given her xx xxxxx the philosophic Captain himself might have thought such a hint broader than either frying pan or face.

Your writing to the Admiralty can be of no use, & when other application is making is, I should think, rather likely to be detrimental than otherwise. That Herries will do what he can, is certain, – because he volunteered his services both now & on the former occasion. As for Canning he is not likely to come into place at all without a total change of Ministry, & would then most probably resume his former situation. [2]  Something xxx xxxx xxx may perhaps be done by Croker, soon or late, – by one channel or other, I do not doubt of getting the step. Meantime read, write, xx enjoy yourself, & leave those who have the watch to look out.

You must read P. Martire [3]  carefully, & xx refer to him for all the facts xxx in Muñoz [4]  which there is his authority for: the oldest authorities always being those upon which history must rest. Charlevoix [5]  in like manner will require collation with the original documents, & being a Jesuit, & what is far worse a Frenchman he requires comparison also as I know by experience. Mr Viner [6]  is mistaken about Purchas. [7]  It is in the old Library, for I had one of the volumes out.

Harry can only mean that Miss Tyler is making a long stay at my Uncles when he says she has taken up her abode there. Tis a common mode of speaking. The thing itself cannot be. My Uncle I am sure would never make such an arrangment.

Thank Sarah for her cheese, which is very good.

You will have learnt the success of Coleridge’s play. [8]  I always thought it sure of succeeding, tho it is full of rich poetry, & a bad play, both of which are to a certain degree against it. Yet its dramatic faults were as little likely to be generally felt as its poetical beauties, & I relied upon its stage effect. Kemble & Sheridan rejected this play fifteen years ago [9]  – had it been acted then C. might have written fifteen better by this time, for there is no man upon whom the applause of pit box & gallery could produce more effect. Better late than never, & its success is in seasonable time for his family.

Yours is the first general report xx concerning Rokeby [10]  which has reached me, but it confirms the opinion which has been formed here. The Senhora’s remark was, “Southey, you say. Scott has got the Goose – but I think the Goose will turn out a poor forsaken Gander”. Lady Sunderlin said that if this had been the first of his poems which she had read she should not have admired is as she does. Their opinions lead me to anticipate a somewhat general disappointment, – & that disappointment will explain the true cause of Scotts popularity, – for Rokeby is written with as much life & spirit, & not more carelessly than any of its predecessors, – but it is not so pretty a novel, & those persons can judge of this, who can judge of nothing else.

The rest of Nelson [11]  shall be sent to you in time. Ponsonby [12]  was at Papcastle when I wanted xxxx to show him the MS. however he is returned before the proofs are arrived. The fifth sheet of Vol 2. is before me, which comes down within a page or two, to the surrender of Malta. I am xxx in sight of land, being on the way from the W Indies after the French fleet. My confidence about the book increases as it proceeds. Your Quarterlies [13]  shall come with it.

I am in the eleventh book of Roderick [14]  – 2840 lines, – very well pleased with looking back, & not less so in looking forward. But you are sanguine & deceive yourself. It is in too deep a strain of passion to become popular till upon the opinion of the few shall become that of the many. The 5th & 10th books, neither of which you have seen, are among the best things I have written. Perhaps my marketable reputation even now is high enough for me xx to write verse with as much emolument as prose. I shall try the experiment as soon as my engagements upon hand are cleared off.

Was ever infatuation equal to that of those persons who are xxxxxxx crying out that we should negotiate with Buonaparte! with Buonaparte whose authority & xxxxxx life are neither of them worth a weeks purchase! The Catholic question, I think, is knocked on the head. God be praised. No minister can force it, & its impossibility will reconcile me to seeing the Wellesleys in administration. There is a great deficiency in the revenues this year. The consolidated fund nearly a million & half short.

Love to Sarah. Edith acknowledges her debts & her sin, & will ere long show symptoms of amendment. All well, half past eight o clock & a frosty night.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Capt Southey. R. N./ St. Helens/ Auckland
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 42–44. BACK

[1] Unidentified. BACK

[2] i.e. Foreign Secretary (a post Canning held 1807–1809), rather than a post at the Admiralty which might help Tom Southey. BACK

[3] 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. In this letter, Southey references 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.) Southey was encouraging his brother to write a history of the West Indies, which finally appeared in 1828. BACK

[4] 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

[5] 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

[6] Samuel Viner (c. 1740–1815), a minor canon of Durham Cathedral. He possibly had some responsibility for the Cathedral Library. BACK

[7] A work or works by Samuel Purchas (c. 1577–1626; DNB), probably Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625). BACK

[8] Remorse, staged at Drury Lane, London, 23 January-12 February 1813. BACK

[9] The actor John Philip Kemble (1757–1823; DNB) and the playwright, theatre proprietor and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816; DNB) had rejected it in 1797, when it was titled ‘Osorio’. BACK

[10] Scott’s Rokeby: A Poem (1813), set during the civil war of the seventeenth century. BACK

[11] Tom was reading and correcting the MS of the Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[12] Possibly Lieutenant John Ponsonby (dates unknown), who was then living at Ormathwaite, near Keswick. BACK

[13] Copies of the Quarterly Review; see Robert Southey to John Murray, 9 April 1813, Letter 2243. BACK

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

Published @ RC

August 2013