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

2606. Robert Southey to John Murray, 27 May 1815 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

I was transcribing the finale when your note arrived. [1]  What may be thought of it I do not pretend to say, – for of all things, public opinion upon any literary work is that which most defies all calculation, – but it has been written both with due deliberation & with proper heat.

As for Charlemagne if it is to be past over in silence, so much the better both for the author, & for me, [2]  – You mention Armageddon, [3]  I know nothing about it, & in general have no wish to meddle with poetry, except when I can praise with perfect truth, – or take up the subject in a general & comprehensive view. There are plenty of subjects before me, & very good ones. Alfieri which will enter into the subject of dramatic literature, [4]  – Salts [5]  & Campbells Travels, [6]  – the little Labradore book, [7]  – Gregoires Sects, [8]  – & the Poor as connected with Reform. [9]  All these subjects are in my way.

The Wellington article will not much exceed the length you proposed. [10]  If it be shortened it must be (I think) in that part relating to Sir J Moore, where we travelled a little out of the record for the sake of Mr Frere: [11]  not but that it is strictly in place if there be place for it, – because it contrasts well with the conduct of Lord Wellington.

Your principle respecting the management of the Review is perfectly just But all articles cannot be upon subjects of direct temporary interest; & you sometimes necessarily give an article which does not interest ten people in the world, – one of Greek criticism for instance. Yet they {it} answers in gaining reputation for the work.

I see the British is about to revive. [12]  Is this indication of any political change? as if the peace party in the Cabinet wanted to have a journal for themselves?

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey

Keswick. 27 May. 1815.


Notes

* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 30 MY 30/ 1815
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1815 May 27th/ Keswick/ Southey Robt
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551
Unpublished. BACK

[1] 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; this issue of the Quarterly was published on 20 June 1815. BACK

[2] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), brother of Napoleon and author of Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Délivrée (1814). Southey had been asked to translate it into English and had refused. He did not review Bonaparte’s poem but did insert a swipe at it in his review of accounts of Wellington and Waterloo, Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526: ‘The publication of Charlemagne, so ostentatiously announced, was fatal to his literary character … his poem … proved him to be a sorry Homer’ (489). BACK

[3] George Townsend (1788–1857; DNB), Armageddon, A Poem (1815). Southey did not review it for the Quarterly. BACK

[4] Charles Lloyd’s translation of The Tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri (1815); reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 14 (January 1816), 333–368. BACK

[5] Sir Henry Salt (1780–1827; DNB), A Voyage to Abyssinia (1814). Southey did not review it for the Quarterly. BACK

[6] 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. BACK

[7] Benjamin Gottlieb Kohlmeister (1756–1844) and George Kmoch (1770–1857), Journal of a Voyage from Okakk, on the coast of Labrador, to Ungava Bay, Westward of Cape Chudleigh: undertaken to explore the coast, and visit the Esquimaux in that unknown region (1814). Southey did not review this book for the Quarterly Review. BACK

[8] Henri Gregoire (1750–1831), Histoire des Sectes Religieuses (1810), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 28 (October 1822), 1–46. BACK

[9] Southey’s article on ‘the Poor’, Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 187–235. BACK

[10] Southey’s review of 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. BACK

[11] The section in question dealt with the respective conduct of Frere and Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB). Frere had been Minister Plenipotentiary to the Central Junta in 1808–1809 and advised Moore to advance on Madrid, or, if necessary, to retreat through Galicia rather than Portugal– advice that led to the disastrous retreat to Corunna. Southey had defended Frere in Edinburgh Annual Register for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 86–108. In the Quarterly, these matters occupied Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 248–251. BACK

[12] British Review and London Critical Journal, published by Longman between 1811 and 1825. It was a determinedly Anglican, evangelical and Tory periodical. BACK

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August 2013