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

2530. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 27 December 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. 27 Dec. 1814.

My dear friend

Tho it is too long a time since you have heard from me, I hope you have duly received a proof in quarto that you are not forgotten. [1]  In course of time I shall encroach upon your shelves if you will allow me room there. My concluding volume of Brazil [2]  is fairly in the press (the eleventh proof is before me) & I shall henceforth be constantly in printers ink till the whole of my historical series [3]  is compleated, – that is if I live to compleat it. You will find in this volume more detail than accords with your taste, but much that will interest you respecting the savage & early stages of colonial society, & especially a fair account of the Jesuits in Paraguay. Upon a careful comparison of lies with lies, x it is perfectly clear to me that their enemies outlied them; – which may be called out-Heroding Herod. If any of the monastic orders are to exist, better this than any other. If I were the Pope I would restore them; [4]  & if I were the English Minister I would not suffer them to establish themselves in Ireland. [5]  – The extinction of the order was unjust & in its pretext, & in its manner little less cruel than the French deportations to Cayenne, & in its consequences in South America exceedingly injurious. [6]  But this mischief is irreparable & from their restoration I can xxxx perceive no other political good than a dispute between Portugal & Rome, which may possibly tend to separate that country from xx its papal thraldom. [7]  Literature will gain something: we shall probably have the sequel of those important works respecting xx A various parts of America which were begun by the Ex Jesuits in Italy, & discontinued for want of patronage.

From the Pope to Lucien Buonaparte, the Popes poet. [8] 

His Charlemagne has lowered him in my estimation, & almost induced me to think that the great difference between him & the rest of his family is merely that he has been the best political calculator. The stanza is well constructed; for this I give him great credit. The story is perfectly free from the ordinary vice of imitation; & put together with sufficient skill. But there is little character, little passion, little interest, little poetry. We were told of his antiquarian researches for the costume, & behold there is nothing antiquarian about the work; & his Saxons have a Druid for their priest. The philosophy of the poem is truly curious, & lamentably characteristic of the age.

Never was the want of a commanding intellect likely to be so severely felt as in these our days. What a golden opportunity of re-casting Europe has been lost! With Italy in one state, & the North of Germany in another under Prussia as its head, & Poland reestablished as an independant state, we might have looked for a long peace, the indispensable precaution having been taken of paring the claws & drawing the teeth of France. Instead of this France has been left with all that Louis 14 [9]  added to her; & the Government which she has gained after all her revolutions [10]  is so much better than x any of those by which she is surrounded, that in the common course of things she must inevitably become too strong for the divided continent. All will then be to do over again; & woe be to the continent if they do not religiously preserve their hatred of the French as a nation. It is a For the last ten years the madness has been Bunoapartes, but the atrocities have been those of the French. He was the God Hanuman, [11]  – the monkeys whom he commanded did the mischief.

I think of going to France about autumn next if the state of affairs public & private will permit. A very little of Paris will satiate me, but I would fain see the Pyrenees, ramble in Dauphiny, & return down the Rhine. There are very persons whom I shall be desirous of seeing Fayette [12]  would be one, Carnot another. [13] 

You will have heard of Harrys intended marriage. It brings forces upon me a sense of the lapse of time, – for when I was last at Lisbon Louisa Gonne was a little child. Her mother [14]  is my ideal of all that {is} lovely in female nature.

I regret that I do not see the Monthly Review. From a newspaper advertisement of Longmans I concluded that you gave the Omniana a good word there, where otherwise it was not likely to have found one. [15]  I have not yet begun another long poem, – a proof perhaps of lessening ardour, – but not yet of diminished power. My story is sufficiently before me in outline; [16]  I delay the commencement partly for want of time, more from irresolution respecting the measure. In blank verse I shall be in danger of repetitions & mannerism; & the story is too dramatic a character for rhyme. I therefore incline at present to that form of verse which learnt from Dr Sayers, & which Milton calls Apolelymenon, [17]  there would be a word on a title page.

I act the school master every day for an hour & half. – a sad expence of time, but it is bringing back my lost Greek.

Jeffrey talks of having written a crushing review of the Excursion. [18]  I desired my informant would tell him that he might as easily crush Skiddaw. [19]  – I am in the dark respecting Spain, & cannot divine who are the movers of such folly & so much wickedness, change of men seeming to produce no change of measures. [20]  I believe I should go there if I were not somewhat afraid of my old Guerrilla friends upon the road.

God bless you – affectionately yours

R Southey


* Address: To/ Wm Taylor Junr Esqre/ Norwich
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: Ansd 1 Mar
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4871
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 425–428. BACK

[1] Southey’s last letter had been that of 18 November 1813, see Letter 2334. In the meantime, he had asked for Taylor to be sent a copy of the first, quarto edition of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[2] Two further volumes of the History of Brazil appeared, in 1817 and 1819, respectively. BACK

[3] The ‘historical series’ included Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832) and his unfinished histories of Portugal and of the monastic orders. BACK

[4] 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

[5] The Jesuit, Peter James Kenney (1779–1841; DNB), had just founded Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare. It accepted its first pupil on 18 May 1814. It became the leading boarding school for Irish middle class Catholics. BACK

[6] The French revolutionaries used the colony of Cayenne (now in French Guiana) as a place of deportation for political opponents from 1792 onwards. Hundreds of royalists and Catholic priests were deported there in 1797–1799. BACK

[7] Portugal did not invite the Jesuits to return until 1829. BACK

[8] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), brother of Napoleon and author of Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Délivrée (1814), dedicated to the Pope by his ‘très-dévoué fils en JC/ L.B.’. Southey had been asked to translate it into English and had refused. BACK

[9] Louis XIV (1638–1715; King of France 1643–1715). BACK

[10] The allies had insisted that France should have a Constitution: Louis XVIII (1755–1824; King of France 1814–1824) had responded with the Charter of 1814, which guaranteed equality before the law, freedom of religion and a Parliament of two chambers, the Chamber of Deputies and Chamber of Peers. BACK

[11] The comparison is between Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) and the monkey god in Hinduism. BACK

[12] The French politician and solider Marie-Paul-Joseph-Roch-Gilbert Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (1757–1834), celebrated figure in the American Revolution and the early years of the French Revolution. Southey had admired him since he was a schoolboy. BACK

[13] Lazare Nicolas Marguerite, Comte Carnot (1753–1823), member of the Committee of Public Safety 1793–1794, Director 1795–1797, Minister of War 1800–1804. An old Jacobin, for whom Southey retained some admiration. BACK

[14] Mrs Gonne, wife of William Gonne (d. 1815), Lisbon merchant and packet agent. BACK

[15] The notice of Omniana, or Horae Otiosiores (1812) in Monthly Review, 73 (January 1813), 108–111. BACK

[16] ‘Oliver Newman’, left uncompleted at Southey’s death. BACK

[17] John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), Samson Agonistes (1671), ‘Of that sort of Dramatick Poem which is called Tragedy’: ‘The measure of verse used in the Chorus is of all sorts, called by the Greeks Monostrophick, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epode’. BACK

[18] For Jeffrey’s review of Wordsworth’s The Excursion (1814), see Edinburgh Review, 24 (November 1814), [1]-30. It began: ‘This will never do’ ([1]). BACK

[19] See Southey to James Hogg, [24 December 1814], Letter 2528. BACK

[20] Ferdinand VII (1784–1833; King of Spain 1808, 1813–1833). He had abolished the liberal Constitution of 1812 on 4 May 1814 and returned Spain to absolute rule. He was also notoriously fickle in his choice of ministers. Jose Miguel de Carvajal Vargas y Manrique de Lara, 2nd Duke of San Carlos (1771–1828) was dismissed as First Secretary of State (Prime Minister) on 15 November 1814 and replaced by Pedro Cevallos Guerra (1760–1840), Secretary of State 1799–1808, 1814–1816. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013