2506. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 28 November 1814 

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

2506. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 28 November 1814 ⁠* 

I was a little vexed at Smiths blunder when I learnt from Bedford that he had sent you the bill with the bust & received payment for it [1]  – & by way of acquitting my conscience as near as may be to that amount I desired Longman would send my Aunt a copy of Wordsworths poem, [2]  which I hope she has received. You will read it with more pleasure when you know that except the Solitary & the Pastor, the characters are all drawn from the life, – & that all the church yard histories are true.

By this time you have another portion of the H of Brazil. I am close at work upon it. [3]  The Rio de Janeiro Magazine [4]  (the dearest book of its kind beyond all comparison that ever was published) has brought me some good materials. What a change in this respect! There is an end of all restraint upon publications of this kind, & the Portugueze will now take a pride in showing themselves freer & more liberal than the Spaniards. – In spite of all my applications I have not been able to procure Montoya, [5]  Lozano [6]  or Xarque, [7]  tho there is still some hope from Abella. The want of them compels me to be content with Charlevoix, [8]  & that provoking abridgement of Techo in Churchill which omits exactly those parts which xxx are most essential. [9]  As soon as the restoration of Pernambuco is compleated I give a miscellaneous chapter de moribus, which will have enough of the Flowers of Popery to render it amusing. [10]  Then I look back to the Plata & to Paraguay, giving the rise & progress of the Jesuit system there, & the affair of Cardeñas, [11]  which was the first great opposition that they encountered. I fear I shall be greatly in want of Seabras Provas for all this portion of the history. [12]  My mind is fully satisfied about the Jesuits. Almost impossible & unimaginable as it appears, their enemies were greater liars than they; – & no set of men were ever more {so} wickedly calumniated & treated, since the Templars. [13]  But their restoration [14]  is a great evil: the mischief in S America & in California has been done, & cannot be remedied, – the Demon of Revolution is got into all those countries, & this is a Devil with whom neither Xavier [15]  nor Anchieta [16]  himself could turn out, were they living to enter the lists with him. – After this chapter I pass in natural transition to the Jesuit affairs in Brazil, the transactions in Maranhan – the Paulistas &c – As far as Rocha Pitta [17]  goes there is a skeleton to build upon, & the catastrophe of the Jesuits comes opportunely in xxxx after his failure. – What a world of work is there before me! As soon as this volume is out of the press I ought to go in with the history of the Mother Country, of which there are at least two volumes in such a state that they require only to be remodelled in the act of transcription. [18] 

Among the subjects which I have thought of for anther long poem (as I must always have one in hand while the power remains) is the deliverance of Portugal by Joam I. [19]  I should like a Portugueze scene, for the manifold advantages which it would give me: & Nuno Alvares [20]  is as perfect a hero as it would be possible to imagine. But the story is too much; & it is very difficult, – perhaps impossible – where the historical interest is so powerful to blend with it individual & imaginary passion, so as to form a well combined whole. The only {best} way would be to limit the action to Aljubarrota, [21]  the difficulty then would be how to explain with proper skill as much of the previous history as is required. The thought is several years old, & I know not whether it will ever come to any thing. Meantime my New-England fable of Oliver Newman [22]  has grown into something like a skeleton; with a head & a tail, & the rudiments of the body, – & if my mind were made up respecting the metre I should probably begin. This choice is always a perplexing one, for however much I may desire to suit the metre to the story, the character of the story derives much of its cast & colouring from the metre.

Did I tell you that Canning called on me two or three months ago & offered me his services at Lisbon, & at Madrid, as far as they could extend there?

The Rio de Jan. Magazine (O Patriota) has a curious paper respecting Angola. [23]  It is very rich in Brazilian matter, both historical & geographical. And the Coimbra Journal has a most valuable diary of the Bp. of Para’s visitation. [24]  It is of considerable length & leaves me little to desire respecting that Captaincy & the Rio Negro. – Wm May was at St Pauls, & I have had his journal transcribed. [25] 

My love to my Aunt & to the Nursery of Peers. [26]  – I foresaw Harrys fate [27]  when I was in town, & intimated a fear lest the malady which has proved so fatal in one generation might should be transmitted to another. This dread would have been strongly before my eyes, – were it not for this I should think it a good connection, & much better for H. than if he had formed a more ambitious one.

Keswick. 28 Nov. 1814.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 2 DE 2/ 1814; 10o’Clock/ DE 2/ 1814 FNn
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 379–382. BACK

[1] In error, Herbert Hill had been sent a bill for his copy of the bust of Southey sculpted in October 1813 by James Smith (1775–1815). Southey had intended it as a gift. BACK

[2] The Excursion (1814). BACK

[3] The second and third volumes of the History of Brazil were published in 1817 and 1819. BACK

[4] O Patriota, Jornal Litterario, Politico, Mercantil &c do Rio de Janeiro (1813–1814), no. 3641 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (1585–1652), Conquista Espiritual hecha por los Religiosos de la Compañia de la Jesus en la Provincias del Paraguay, Parana, Uruguay, y Tape (1639). BACK

[6] Pedro Lozano (1697–1752), Historia de la Compañia de la Jesús de la Provincia del Paraguay (1755). BACK

[7] Francisco Xarque (1609–1691), Insignes, Missioneros de la Compañia de Jesus Paraguay (1687). BACK

[8] Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix (1682–1761); either his Historia Paraguajensis, ex Gallioc Latina, cum Animadversionibus et Supplemento (1779) (no. 691 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library) or Histoire du Paraguay (1756) (no. 645 in the sale catalogue). BACK

[9] The Jesuit Nicholas del Techo (1611–1685). An English translation of his Latin ‘History of the Provinces of Paraguay, Tucuman, Rio de la Plata, Parana, Gualra, Ulrvaica and Chile’ was included in the fourth volume of John Churchill (c. 1663-c.1714; DNB), Collection of Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of the World (1704). BACK

[10] In this paragraph Southey gives an outline of most of the contents of the second volume of the History of Brazil, which concentrated on the second half of the seventeenth century, starting with the war against the Dutch in Pernambuco up to 1654, and containing a great deal of material on the Jesuit settlements. The only substantial re-arrangement was to place his material ‘de moribus’ (‘on customs’) into chapters 24 and 30. BACK

[11] Bernardino de Cardenas Ponce (d. 1668), Bishop of Paraguay 1640–1663, Bishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra 1663–1666, Bishop of La Paz 1666–1668. He was a determined enemy of the Jesuits and attempted to suppress their activities in Paraguay. BACK

[12] Jose de Seabra da Silva (1732–1813), Deducao Cronologica, e Analytica (1768). This was a fiercely anti-Jesuit work by a Portuguese Minister, in five volumes, the final two of which consisted of ‘Provas’, or supporting documents. Southey possessed only the first two volumes, no. 2599 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[13] The Knights Templar, the medieval crusading order, who were suppressed on false evidence in 1307–1312. BACK

[14] Pius VII (1742–1823), pontiff since 1800, restored the Society of Jesus (which had been suppressed in 1773), in a Bull of 7 August 1814. BACK

[15] St Francis Xavier (1506–1552), pioneering Jesuit missionary in Asia. BACK

[16] The Jesuit missionary in Brazil, José de Anchieta (1534–1597). BACK

[17] Sebastião da Rocha Pitta (1660–1738), Historia da América Portugeza, desde o anno 1500 ate o de 1724 (1730); Southey’s copy was no. 3624 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[18] Southey’s uncompleted ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[19] John I (1357–1433; King of Portugal 1385–1433). After a brief civil war, he gained the throne and prevented Portugal being absorbed into Castile. BACK

[20] Nuno Alvares Pereira (1360–1431), successful general in the Portuguese civil war of 1383–1385, ancestor of the House of Braganza and, in later life, a Carmelite friar. BACK

[21] The Battle of Aljubarrota, fought on 14 August 1385, provided a decisive victory for the forces of John I and Portuguese independence. BACK

[22] Southey’s poem, ‘Oliver Newman’, which was left unfinished at his death. BACK

[23] Unidentified. BACK

[24] The diocese of Belem do Para in Brazil was founded in 1720. The ‘Bp. of Para’ was Cayetano Da Annunciacao Brandao (1740–1805), who was Bishop of Belem do Para 1782–1790, before becoming Archbishop of Braga in Portugal 1790–1805. His journal of a visitation in his diocese in 1784 appeared in Jornal de Coimbra, 17 (May 1813), 19–55. BACK

[25] William Henry May (1785–1849), John May’s youngest brother and business partner in Brazil. At Southey’s request, Tom Southey transcribed a journal that William Henry May kept when he was at São Paulo. It appeared as no. 3146 in the Sale catalogue of Southey’s Library, described as ‘Journal of a Journey in the Brazils in Search of Ship Timber’. BACK

[26] The Hills’ children, Edward, Herbert and Errol. BACK

[27] Henry Herbert Southey had recently become engaged to Louisa Gonne. Her father, William Gonne, was in the last stages of a long illness. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013