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

2245. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, [c. 12 April 1813]⁠* 

It is no easy task to make or mend an inscription of this kind. [1]  The word circle is objectionable, – but I am not certain that ‘individual character” would be better {less so}, & cannot think of any other substitution. The last line had better be struck out: & perhaps the word universally had better {ought to} be got rid of. Might it not run thus

Wherever he was known
He was respected & belovd thro life
And lamented at his death.

I was doubtful about Conimbrica, – but made it short, – as you will see

– the happier site
Of old Conimbrica, whose ruined walls &c –  [2] 

As for the other word, xxx xxx xx xxx xxx it xxxx be got rid of for its unpleasant sound; & it will be some loss { the blunder is unfortunate}, because there is a more than ordinary grace in the epithet which is coupled with it. – The whole will undergo xx careful & repeated revision: as for haste, Heaven knows the poem will have no faults arising from that cause, for it has moved like a tortoise. – I have used Desert in its wide, but proper sense, for despoblado, – & said that it offered fruit & water. [3]  This is easily altered.

I see Falkners Patagonia [4]  in Browns [5]  Catalogue, Duke Street, Lincolns Inn Fields. 7993. 8/. Should you go into that neighbourhood, I wish you would call at Rodds, [6]  No 2, Newport Street, Long Acre, (almost opposite the top of St Martins Lane,) – & look at Atkins’s Voyage to Guinea & the Brasils. [7]  It is marked 138 in his Catalogue, & bears date there 1737. I have this mans Voyage to Guinea, Brasil & the West Indies 1735; but all he says of Brasil in it is that he has elsewhere given his observations on that country, – which must be in another publication: & that other I wish very much to see. I fear this will prove only a different edition of the work in xx my possession, but it is worth while to ascertain whether it be so or not.

I find that it would not be possible for me to leave home before the end of May, – & as that would bring me to town just when every body is leaving it, it will be better to delay my journey till the close of the year, on some respects {accounts} I am sorry for this, but it may be better as far as regards my appearance at Streatham.

Murray will send you the Nelson, [8]  of which the title page &c is now in the press. You know the history of this book, that it grew out of the reviewal. [9]  Xx I undertook to review Stanier Clarkes book with little predeliction for the subject; double pay was offered me for it before hand, & my own opinion when the article was sent off, xxx was that I never earned any money so easily, or deserved it so little. The thing however was praised by Canning, & some of those men whose opinions have a current value, & Murray then offered me a hundred guineas to enlarge it into a volume which he could sell for a dollar, [10]  as a midshipmans manual. By a blunder between him & the Printer, [11]  in which I had no concern, they cast or rather mis-cast the ms. so that when they the printing was about half finished, they discovered that it would be too thick if xxx the whole were comprized in one volume. I did not enlarge the latter part a single paragraph or sentence on this account, – but perhaps if the division had not been determined on I should have felt it advisable to curtail it, – which would have been the worse for the book, because it would have injured its proportions. Murray has sent me the sum originally agreed upon me, & voluntarily engaged to make a similar payment when he prints a second edition. This is handsome enough on his part, because I had no claim upon him; – & I am well contented, tho not overpaid. – We are at present planning a work of great extent, of which you shall hear more as soon as it assumes any thing like a substantial form. [12]  It will require great labour, but of the pleasantest kind, & I have a very great {disposable} capital of the requisite knowledge.

I hope my Aunt is recovering her spirits. [13]  It is well for her that she has new ties. Whether there be any other void or not, it is certainly not according to the order of nature that there should be one in the human heart.

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: 10 o’Clock/ AP 12/ 1813 FNn; E/ 12 AP 12/ 1813
Seal: Black wax, capital S, ‘In Labore Quies’
Watermark: 1807
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
Dating note: dating from postmark. BACK

[1] An unpublished and possibly unfinished epitaph by Southey. BACK

[2] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 3, lines 98–99. BACK

[3] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 1, lines 289–290. Southey was using ‘desert’ in its more archaic sense of an uncultivated and uninhabited region – for which ‘despoblado’ would be a Spanish equivalent. BACK

[4] Thomas Falkner (1707–1784; DNB), Description of Patagonia in South America (1774), no. 932 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] C. Brown (fl. 1810s–1820s), a dealer in second hand books. BACK

[6] Thomas Rodd (1763–1822; DNB), bookseller, poet and translator. BACK

[7] John Atkins (bap. 1685, d. 1757; DNB), A Voyage to Guinea, Brasil and the West Indies (1735). There was no earlier account of his travels. BACK

[8] Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[9] Southey’s review of John Charnock (1756–1806; DNB), Biographical Memoirs of Lord Viscount Nelson, &c., &c., &c.; with Observations, Critical and Explanatory (1806); James Harrison (d. 1847), The Life of Lord Nelson (1806); T. O. Churchill (fl. 1800–1823), The Life of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronté, &c (1808); and James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts (1809), see Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. It was later expanded into a full-scale Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[10] Five shillings. BACK

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

[12] Possibly Southey and Murray’s plan for ‘A View of the World’; see Southey to John Murray, 31 March 1813, Letter 2238. BACK

[13] Possibly a reference to the death of Catherine Hill’s father, Lovelace Bigg-Wither (1741–1813). BACK

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August 2013