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

2243. Robert Southey to John Murray, 9 April 1813 ⁠* 

To J W C &c &c &c these volumes are respectfully inscribed, as one whose offical situation {knowledge} enables him {rightly} to appreciate their {historical} accuracy, & who as a man {member of the republic} of letters {(himself)} is competent {qualified} to decide upon their {literary} merits or defects, & who as an individual will be disposed to “weigh errors in the balance of good will.”

To J. W. C. &c &c &c, who from {by} the official situation which he fills so ably {fills} is qualified to appreciate their historical accuracy, & who as a member of the republic of letters is equally qualified to decide upon their literary merits, these volumes are respectfully inscribed. [1] 

My dear Sir

You can have no conception of the difficulty which it has cost me to lick this clumsy compliment into shape, – & after all {see} what a bears birth it is! [2]  – In this respect my nature is an unlucky one, that from a fear of being thought to express more than I feel, I am perpetually expressing less. – What is written above is equally sincere & awkward; but no time & no dogged labour would avail to mend it. – If you like it better than the former, – send it to the printer, [3]  & let it be struck off; – without stop delaying the publication for the sake of sending the proof here. I am perfectly conscious that Mr C. has a claim upon me for any mark of respect which it is in my power to offer. I must rely upon your kindness to see that the proper form of address is preserved, – for of this I am entirely ignorant, & have put the &cs because I know no better.

I have been thinking to better purpose about the Cosmography, [4]  (a name merely used till a good one is found.) & with the map before me have traced out the line of march. Egypt is clearly the point from where to set out, then the Scripture-Country, & the countries connected with Scripture history & earliest civilization. Here the account should come in of the Jews, who tho they have no local habitation, must have a place somewhere in the work, & this will be the best. And here, I think, it would be desirable to give a sketch of the various eastern systems of {ancient} mythology, which have more or less, leavened xx still-existing superstitions; the system of Zerdusht or Zoroaster, & Manes [5]  would form delightful chapters, & with the Rabbinical matter contained in the chapter upon the Jews fitly introduce the general account of the all-swallowing system of xx xx xx Mahommedxxx. – You will observe that the system is what is here spoken of, the varieties of belief, with the rites & ceremonies will come in in their geographical place. Then come Arabia, Persia, Hindostan, the Burman Empire – Thibit – China – Japan; back by the Philippines & the larger islands to the Maldives – then to the East African Islands – Madagascar – the African shore of the Red Sea. Abyssinia & the surrounding nations barbarous & savage. Round by E Africa to the Cape & on to Senegal. Then the interior – lastly Morocco & the Piratical states.

Turkey next. Greece – Albania. Italy. Spain – France. England. & so up to the remotest North, then Sweden Germany, the Slavonic countries. Russia tho barbarous some Xtians between the Suxine & Caspian. Tartary. Lastly the New World, & the Austral Countries.

Smollets book [6]  never fell in my way. – You know I am insatiable in my desire of materials, – thinking indeed that nothing is done while any thing remains undone in the way of research; & much of the first repute of the work must depend on its bearing with it the proofs {of this} as well as the reality xxx xxxx Most of the books being required only for single chapters, may be borrowed as they are wanted & soon returned; but there are some collections which would be in constant requisition. I have {Grynaeus} [7]  Hakluyt, [8]  Churchill, [9]  & Pinkerton, [10]  Ramusio, [11]  Purchas [12]  & Thevenot [13]  would be wanted; perhaps Harris. [14]  I have two volumes of De Bry. [15]  The others, with Thevet [16]  & some of the rarer & otherwise unattainable books, might be consulted at the Museum. Purchas’s Pilgrimage I have, – not his Pilgrims. [17]  Is the republication of his great work abandoned?

Should this plan take effect, I will not begin seriously upon it, till the B of the Church, [18]  & the hist. of Brazil [19]  are finished; To both of which I shall put in apply tooth & nail, as soon as the Register [20]  gives me breathing time. But I would make notes, & begin to collect & sort materials without delay, – so that every thing would go on rapidly when it was time to weigh anchor & hoist sail.

As the publication of Nelson [21]  will not now be long delayed I will take this opportunity of giving directions for concerning the presentation copies. They are so many debts of friendship, or civility. – Our friend Turner, Duppa, Rickman, Williams Wynn (Duke Street Westminster) Elmsley, Bedford, Capt Burney, Dr Bell, Lord Radstock, [22]  Coleridge (71 Berners Street) John May (Stert & May 2. New Burlington Street). Neville White 8. Wood Street Cheapside. – Mr Herries, the Commissary General, – Mr Gifford & Mr Croker. D. Manuel Abella &c &c &c Cadiz to the care of the Spanish Consul General D Juan Alonso Ortiz 7 Salisbury Street. My brother Dr Southey 28 Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square, & my Uncle the Rev. H. Hill, Streatham. – Wade Browne Esqr Ludlow. Charles Danvers E – Corn Street, Bristol (2 copies) – Wm Taylor Junr Norwich. Walter Scott. – My brother Capt S, – & please to send with his copy the volumes of the Quarterly subsequent to those which were sent him a year ago – I forget to what number they went down, – but it may be seen by referring to my account. – Finally six copies here, by coach, – & the last review may come with them.

– I am rejoiced to find that my brother can discover no blunder in the book of sufficient consequence to require notice in an erratum.

A critical account of the best books of Travels would be a proper appendix to the Cosmography. – I expect to carry the B. of the Church thro the Press in the course of the autumn, & to get Brazil into it xxx in six weeks after the Register is concluded. Once in the press, – & it never stops for me. – Whatever form you decide upon for the work, you will probably rather publish a volume at a time, than wait till the whole is compleated.

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey

Keswick. April 9. 1813


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 12 AP 12/ 1813
Seal: black wax ‘S’ and motto
Watermark: C WILMOTT/ 1807
Endorsement: 1813 July/ Southey R
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 55–57. BACK

[1] A draft of the dedication (to Croker) of Southey’s Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[2] In popular mythology bear cubs were an unformed mass at birth and were licked into shape by their mothers. BACK

[3] James Moyes (d. 1839), of Greville St, Hatton Garden, London. BACK

[4] An alternative name for the ‘View of the World’ Murray had proposed to Southey; see Robert Southey to John Murray, 31 March 1813, Letter 2238. This project never came to fruition. BACK

[5] Manes (AD 216–276) founded the dualist religion known as Manicheanism. BACK

[6] Tobias Smollett (1721–1771; DNB), probably his Compendium of Voyages (1756). BACK

[7] Simon Grynaeus (1493–1541), Novis Orbis Regionum ac Insularum Veteribus Incognitarum (1532), no. 1204 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] Richard Hakluyt (1552?-1616; DNB), Principall Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries of the English Nation (1598–1600), no. 1212 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] Awnsham (d. 1728) and John (fl. 1695) Churchill, A Collection of Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of the World (1704). Southey owned an edition of 1744–1745, no. 2675 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] John Pinkerton (1758–1826; DNB), A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in all Parts of the World, published in 18 volumes between 1808–1814. Southey’s copy was no. 2335 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[11] Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), Navigationi et Viaggi (1550–1559). Southey owned an early edition (3 vols, 1588, 1583 and 1556), no. 2382 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[12] Samuel Purchas (c. 1577–1626; DNB), Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgimes (1625). BACK

[13] Jean de Thévenot (1633–1667), Relation de Divers Voyages Curieux qui n’ont point este Publices, ou qui ont este traduites d’Hakluyt, de Purchas, et autres (1663–1672); no. 2675 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[14] John Harris (1666–1719; DNB), Navigantium atque Itinerarium Bibliotheca, or Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels (1705). BACK

[15] Theodore de Bry’s (1528–1598). Southey had copies of his: Peregrinationes (1590), Indorum Floridam (1591), Brasiliae Historia (1691–1692), Navigatio in Brasiliam Americae (1592) – bound together as one volume; and Collectiones Perigrinationum in Regnos Africani et Indiae Orientalis (1598–1601), nos 717–718 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s Library. BACK

[16] Andre de Thevet (1516–1590), La Cosmographie Universelle (1575), no. 2677 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[17] Samuel Purchas, Purchas. His Pilgrimage, n.d., no. 2179 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. None of his works were reprinted until 1905–1907, though a new edition was advertised as ‘in the press’ in 1810. BACK

[18] The Book of the Church (1824). BACK

[19] The History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[20] Southey was working on the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813). This was the last year in which he wrote the historical section of the Register. BACK

[21] The Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[22] The naval officer William Waldegrave, 1st Baron Radstock (1753–1825; DNB). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013