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

2551. Robert Southey to John Murray, 10 February 1815 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

The proof is returned by this post. [1] 

I received duly your letter respecting the life of Wellington, & the parcel soon followed it. The materials are good, & I have no reason to distrust my own skill in putting them together. [2]  Where there is so much that both demands & deserves eulogium, a man must be a fool indeed if he makes praise bear the semblance of adulation; – & xx xx where doubt, or censure is to be expressed I shall not fear to express it in that {a} manner showing that I bear it {in} mind both what is due to those of whom I am speaking, & to myself. – For my great work, I have access to Marquis Wellesley thro his son-in-law Mr Littleton, with whom I am acquainted. When do you mean to announce this work? [3]  the materials are in such readiness, & such progress made, that when the introductory chapter shall be fairly put together, I care not how soon it goes to press. This first chapter gives a moral & political view of the Peninsula, & of the two great nations who were about to fight their battles there upon that ground. This of course requires much longer elaboration than any other part of the work, – but great part of it is done, & to my own satisfaction.

This Egyptian expedition will make an article of the best kind. I scarcely know any subject so picturesque [4] 

This Methodist traveller in Africa has made one of the oddest & most amusing books that has fallen in my way. [5]  Most probably Barrow will take him in hand, & then he will fare but scurvily, – for Barrow who writes so admirably as a traveller himself, is not tolerant enough toward his inferiors. I can however steer clear of him by making a history of the Mission in South Africa, – of which indeed the beginning has lain several years in my desk. [6] 

There is a French history of the war in Spain of 1794, [7]  which I wish you could procure for me, – there are many occasions on which it would be fitting that I should refer to it, I should be glad also of Swinburnes Travels [8]  & of Fischers. (not the Picture of Valencia & Madrid, this I have) [9]  It is from {in} books of travels that I get those things which are find the foregrounds & backgrounds for historical painting, – that information which when properly laid-in gives fullness & richness to the narration of events, & serves sometimes serves as a relief, – as necessary in historical composition, as in a poem or a picture.

Believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

10 Feby. 1815.


Notes

* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 13 FE 13/ 1815
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1815 Feby 10/ Southey Robt Esq
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Possibly a proof of Southey’s review of Meriweather Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clark (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. This issue of the Quarterly was published on 23 March 1815. BACK

[2] Southey reviewed George Elliott (dates unknown), The Life of the Most Noble Arthur Duke of Wellington, from the Period of his first Achievements in India, down to his Invasion of France, and the Peace of Paris in 1814 (1814), Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 215–275. He went on to review a further series of books relating to Wellington in the Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526. BACK

[3] The History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[4] Jacques François Miot (1779–1858), Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire des Expéditions en Egypte et en Syrie (1814). Southey reviewed Miot in Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 1–55. BACK

[5] John Campbell (1766–1840; DNB), Travels in South Africa, Undertaken at the Request of the Missionary Society (1815). It was reviewed by John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB) in Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 309–340. Campbell was a Congregationalist minister and a director of the London Missionary Society, but Southey tended to refer to all evangelicals as ‘Methodists’. BACK

[6] This was not written. BACK

[7] Pierre Louis Auguste de Crusy, Marquis de Marcillac (1769–1824), Apercus sur la Biscaye, les Asturies et la Galice: précis de la defense des frontiers du Guipuscoa et de la Navarre (1807). BACK

[8] Henry Swinburne (1743–1803; DNB), Travels in the Two Sicilies, 1777–1780 (1783–1785); Southey obtained an edition of 1790, no. 2762 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[9] English translations of Christian August Fischer (1771–1829), A Picture of Valencia (1809), A Picture of Madrid (1808), and Travels in Spain in 1797 and 1798 (1802). Southey eventually obtained copies of all three; no. 1026 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

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August 2013