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

2421. Robert Southey to John Murray [c. 13 May 1814] ⁠* 

Dear Sir

I was finishing the perusal of Lewis & Clarkes book [1]  when your parcel arrived, – having received a copy from the publishers. There are several books which I should wish to consult for the purpose of reviewing it satisfactorily, Patrick Gass’s Journal [2]  (published I think in London) Ellicott’s Journal, published by Johnson some eight or nine years ago, [3]  Mackenzies Travels, [4]  & the old travels of Carver, [5]  & Dn Pratz [6]  Pike’s Travels [7]  I have, & many other French, English & Spanish relating to these regions.

When you tell me that the insertion of the article on Montgomery would do you an injury, – it is neither possible for me to express any farther wish upon the subject, nor proper that I should be paid for what you have found useless. [8]  The delay has not been wholly my fault: – three numbers have been published since the poem appeared, & the article in question was in ample time for the last. Do me the favour of preserving a proof for me before the press is broken up; – there are some persons to whom I should wish to be able to show such a voucher for the sincerity of my intentions & promises.

Concerning Junius there is no reason why I should have been shackled by my intimacy with Duppa, – xxx till I have seen his reasonings I xxx cannot of course tell whether I should agree with him or not; & xx as to personal feelings I should certainly rather think my friend was mistaken in a conjecture, than believe that the author of Leonidas was a xxxx xx villain, – for such I hold Junius to have been. [9]  – As a reviewer personal acquaintance influences me this far, that I will never review a bad book by an author whom I know (Clarksons Life of Penn [10]  is an instance) – but it would be carrying delicacy to a ridiculous excess if I should abstain from speaking well of a good one. A Journal cannot be free from partialities of this kind in a country where all the literary men are known to each other as friends or enemies. As for Junius I am not solicitous about it, I have too much contempt for the political history of those times to feel any interest in them, & the time employed upon such a subject would not have been well bestowed. Yet I would have done it, because it would have gratified Duppa. But I think you are laying down for yourself a principle upon which it is impossible to proceed. To me personally it can be of little consequence. I review little & shall probably do less; & subjects which have nothing to do with fine literature are most to my taste. [11] 

I have made considerable progress in reviewing Andersons Collection, & can finish it, if it is required, for this number. It analyses the collection, shows the incapacity of the Editor, & sketches the history of English poetry. [12]  – For the article on the Charities & the Poor I shall need no farther documents: on the subject I shall indeed be shackled, – for it will be an Essay on real & practicable reforms, – & there are parts of the subject on which it is impossible to touch in the Quarterly. But I will do my best within the limits of my range. [13] 

I have obtained much important matter from Spain & Portugal for the history, & am obtaining more. In your next parcel I should be glad of Contreras’s Account of the Siege of Tarragona, [14]  & a xxx previous volume to Goldsmiths Collection from the Moniteur, containing all the harangues & proclamations of Buonaparte. [15] 

The corrected copy of Nelson [16]  was sent to you some months ago. I trust it arrived safely. – One reason why I think of reviewing less than I have done is that the time which would be thus devoted, may with more eventual advantage both to myself & you be employed in finishing the Book of the Church, [17]  – which in reality will not occupy me {much} longer than a long review.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 13 MY 13/ 1814
Watermark: C WILMOTT/ 1807
Endorsement: R. Southey Esqr/ May 1814
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551
Dating note: dating from postmark. BACK

[1] Southey was working on a review of Meriweather Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clarke (1770–1838), Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean (1814), Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 317–368. BACK

[2] Patrick Gass (1771–1870), A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery: Under the Command of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clarke of the Army of the United States, from the Mouth of the River Missouri through the Interior Parts of North America to the Pacific Ocean, During the Years 1804, 1805 & 1806 (1807). BACK

[3] Andrew Ellicott (1754–1820), Journal (1803). It was not published by Joseph Johnson (1738–1809; DNB). BACK

[4] Sir Alexander Mackenzie (1763/4–1820; DNB), A Narrative, or Journal of Voyages and Travels through the North-West Continent of America (1802). BACK

[5] Jonathan Carver (1710–1780; DNB), Travels through North America in the Years 1766, 1767 and 1768 (1778); Southey owned an edition of 1779, no. 341 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[6] Antoine Simon Le Page du Pratz (d. 1775), Histoire de la Louisiane (1758); Southey’s copy was no. 2076 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1779–1813), Travels through the Western Territories of North America (1811); Southey’s copy was no. 2330 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] Probably Southey’s review of James Montgomery, The World Before the Flood (1813), in Quarterly Review, 11 (April 1814), 79–87. This number of the Quarterly appeared in July 1814. If so, Murray must have overcome his objections to Southey’s essay. BACK

[9] Junius was the pseudonym used by the author – or authors – of a series of letters published in the Public Advertiser between 21 January 1769 and 21 January 1772. The letters took a high Whig line. They opposed the policies of the government and the king and were generally supportive of those of the ex-Prime Minister George Grenville (1712–1770; DNB) and of the radical politician John Wilkes (1725–1797; DNB). There was, from the outset, much debate as to the identity of their author or authors. In 1813 Duppa’s Memoirs by a Celebrated Literary and Political Character (i.e. Richard Glover (1712–1785; DNB)) had attempted to prove the latter was the author of Junius’s letters. (Glover was the author of the epic Leonidas (1737), a favourite poem of Southey’s.) Duppa defended himself against his critics in an anonymous pamphlet, An Inquiry Concerning the Author of the Letters of Junius, with Reference to the Memoirs by a Celebrated Literary and Political Character (1814). BACK

[10] Thomas Clarkson, Memoirs of the Private and Public Life of William Penn (1813). BACK

[11] Southey did not review Duppa’s contributions to the Junius controversy for the Quarterly Review. BACK

[12] The literary scholar and bibliographer Robert Anderson (1749–1830; DNB), whose 14-volume A Complete Edition of the Poets of Great Britain appeared between 1792 and 1807. Southey was not reviewing ‘good old’ Anderson’s collection. Instead he praised his achievements in an essay on Alexander Chalmers (1759–1834; DNB), The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper (1810), Quarterly Review, 11 (July 1814), 480–504 (esp. 504); and Quarterly Review, 12 (October 1814), 60–90. BACK

[13] Possibly a reference to Southey’s article on ‘The Poor’ in Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 187–235. BACK

[14] Juan Senen de Contreras (1760–1826) had commanded the Spanish troops defending the city of Tarragona during a prolonged French siege of 5 May-29 June 1811. His account of these events was translated as Relation of the Siege of Tarragona and the storming and capture of that city by the French, in June 1811 (1813). BACK

[15] Lewis Goldsmith (1763/4–1846; DNB), Recueil de Decrets, Ordonnances, Faites de Paix, &c. de Napoleon Bonaparte et des Membres de Gouvernement Français (1813–1815); no. 1118 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. This consisted of a series of extracts from the French newspaper Moniteur. BACK

[16] Copy for the second edition of The Life of Nelson published in 1814. BACK

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

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Published @ RC

August 2013