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

2624. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 27 June 1815 ⁠* 

Henry Koster has brought me a MSS. from Pernambuco, – a history of the insurrection there in 1712. [1]  It will be of use, for I have no other account except Rocha Pitta’s, [2]  who (oddly enough) writes on the side of the insurgents, – & this MSS. takes the other part.

I am now transcribing the account of the Jesuit-system [3]  – this chapter includes an account of the different tribes from whom the Reductions were formed, as far as they have not been previously described. There follows the struggle of the Jesuits in Maranham, – for which Vieyra has afforded delightful materials, [4]  – the way before x me is then plain till we come to almost to our own times. [5]  1. the general thread of events from R Pitta till the beginning of last century. 2. View of the manners. 3. Change produced among the native tribes by the introduction of the horse, – manners of the equestrian tribes. 4. The Mines. 5. Progress of the Jesuits to the N.W. Chiquitos – Mexos &c. 6. General History up to the affair of the seven Reductions. [6]  –7. The xxx 7 Reductions – 8 Expulsion of the Jesuits. [7] 

They have made me member of the R Academy of History at Madrid, – which is the working Academy. [8]  My Titulo  [9]  is a beautiful piece of writing on vellum, & tells me that I am entitled to all the privileges of one of the Royal Household. Whether this will do more xxx at a Custom House than a peso duro, [10]  I doubt, but may perhaps one day try; for this new appointment would give me such access to the best collection of historical MSS. (that of the Academy itself) that I am more than ever tempted to visit Spain once more.

You would observe how curiously Joam 4ths  [11]  counsellors talk to him of his becoming Lord of the World. This looks as if he had been bitten by the Sebastianists, or rather the Fifth Monarchy Men (like Vieyra) who had grown out of the Sebastianists. [12]  There were men about him who upon this subject were as mad as Joanna Southcotts people, & it is by no means unlikely that he should have caught a little of their belief, grounded as it was upon the Ourique legend, which he would have thought it heretical to doubt. [13] 


I have a letter this evening from Murray, which is a rich specimen of the Bookseller, – indeed all his epistles bear very distinct marks of this generic character, with a certain cast of Scotchiness about them which makes them the better. They are curious compounds of flattery & trade. I told you he had offered me 100 £ to review a catchpenny Life of Wellington, – a preposterous price for such a composition. [14]  This money he sends me, & after a due quantity of palaver, he proposes to give me 50 £ more if I will enlarge it a little, – add an account of the late battle & let him publish it in one volume with my name as a companion to the Life of Nelson! [15]  You will easily anticipate my reply – after showing him the obvious impropriety of the thing, I told him I should feel it very discreditable thus to write & publish for the demand of the day. [16] 

Xxxxx {I have seen} an interesting extract for you from an official letter of Ld Wellington written some time before the battle. [17]  He says to Ld Bathurst that tho’ perfectly aware of Buonapartes plan, he could not in the first instance prevent it. Buonaparte means, he says, to attack in mass & force thro my lines. As he has to choose his point I cannot unfurnish any part of them, – & they are extensive: the consequence probably will be that in spite of all endeavours he will succeed. Having done this his course will be correctly ascertained, & I think that then I can undertake to answer for him. – This I received from Gifford as a piece of private information before the news of the victory arrived. When Buonaparte finds it impossible to make head in the field I am afraid he will disappear, – xxx & tho he may not reappear to do more mischief, it would be a provoking catastrophe if he were to steal out of life in obscurity. There seems much likelihood that Paris may be destroyed in the struggle; it deserves to suffer above all other cities in the world, & if such be the event I certainly shall not affect to conceal my satisfaction.

For the next Quarterly I review Gregoire’s Hist: of the Sects of the 18th century, [18]  – & Salts Travels. [19]  This latter subject will lead me to sketch a history of the Jesuits in Ethiopia. – it has never been done fairly. [20]  Geddes’s is full of virulent misrepresentation, [21]  & Bruce, [22]  who saw things much more fairly, because he knew what beasts the Abyssinian clergy are, if he understood Portugueze well (which I suspect he did not) had certainly neglected to consult Diogo de Couto. [23]  – one of the best & most important authorities – They are printing a good paper upon Mozambique & its dependencies in the Investigador Portugueze. [24] 

I hope to see you about the fall of the leaf. The swelling in my neck concerning which I wrote to the Doctor, I think is accounted for by a habit of inclining my head toward the left shoulder always when writing, & very much at other times. This has given that xxxx muscle more than its share of action, & may very probably have enlarged it. Our apothecary here (who is a man much above his situation in point of acquirements & skill) seems satisfied with this solution.

An American has poured out all kinds of abuse upon me in a pamphlett as being Editor of the Q Review, & author of an article which I believe was written by Scott. [25]  You may have seen or heard of my reply in the Courier of Friday last, – a simple denial, – & a gentle stroke of proper resentment. [26]  His abuse is amusingly irrelevant: – I am a drunkard, [27]  & a person who aspires to nothing higher than manufacturing dinners, &c.

Love to my Aunt & to the whole house of Peers. [28]  The Duke I suppose will soon be going as a day scholar to Mr Davies. [29] 

God bless you


27 June. 1815.

When you go to town I wish you would see Arrowsmith [30]  about the map. [31] 


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham / Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: [partial] 10 o’Clock; E / 30 JU 30/ 1815
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. 411–413 [in part]. BACK

[1] Probably a narrative of the Mascate War, or ‘War of the Peddlers’ in Pernambuco in 1710–1711, ‘transcribed from the original mauscript’. Koster was thanked for providing Southey with this work in History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, p. vi. It appears as ‘Guerra Civil ou Sedissoens de Pernambuco Exemplo Memoravel aos vindouros 1710’, no. 3840 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s Library. BACK

[2] 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

[3] The system of settlements or ‘Reductions’ founded by the Jesuits for indigenous populations in South America 1607–1767. BACK

[4] Antonio Vieira (1608–1697), Portuguese Jesuit. He was variously a diplomat, missionary and writer and vigorously promoted the series of Jesuit Reductions in 1653–1661; see Southey’s History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, pp. 449–538. BACK

[5] Southey gives here an outline of many of the contents of History of Brazil (1810–1819), volume 2, published in 1817, and volume 3, published in 1819. BACK

[6] Under the Treaty of Madrid (1750), Spanish land east of the River Uruguay was ceded to Portugal. The Jesuits were ordered to dismantle seven of their Reductions and re-build them west of the river. The Guarani inhabitants of the Reductions resisted these measures and were defeated by a joint Spanish-Portuguese force in the Guarani War of 1756–1757. BACK

[7] The Jesuits were expelled from Brazil in 1759 and Spanish America in 1767. BACK

[8] The Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid, established in 1738. BACK

[9] i.e. the formal document sent to Southey and recording his new title. BACK

[10] A coin, worth 10 reales. BACK

[11] John IV (1604–1656; King of Portugal 1640–1656). BACK

[12] The ‘Sebastianists’ believed Sebastian (1554–1578; King of Portugal 1557–1578) would return and usher in the Millennium. The Fifth Monarchists were a movement active in England 1649–1661. They believed that Jesus would imminently return to Earth to rule with his saints for a thousand years – probably in 1666. BACK

[13] The legend that Afonso I (1094–1185; King of Portugal 1139–1185), had a divine vision before his decisive victory over the Moors at the battle of Ourique, 1139. It was used to defend Portuguese independence. BACK

[14] 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), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 215–275. BACK

[15] The Life of Nelson (1813); Southey did not write a biography of Wellington. However, he was commissioned to write another article, a review of Eustache-Auguste Carel (1788–1836), Précis Historique de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1808 à 1814 (1815); Jean Sarrazin (1770–1848), Histoire de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1807 à 1814 (1814); General View of the Political State of France, and of the Government of Louis XVIII (1815); An Answer to the Calumniators of Louis XVIII (1815); Official Accounts of the Battle of Waterloo (1815); Lieutenant-General W. A. Scott (dates unknown), An Authentic Narrative of the Late Sanguinary Battle on the Plains of Waterloo (1815), in Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–52. BACK

[16] See Southey to John Murray, 26 June 1815, Letter 2623. BACK

[17] i.e. Waterloo, 18 June 1815. The letter had been sent by Wellington to Henry, 3rd Earl Bathurst (1762–1834; DNB), Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. BACK

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

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

[20] Southey did not write this article. BACK

[21] Michael Geddes (c. 1647–1713; DNB), The Church-History of Ethiopia (1696). Southey’s copy was no. 1089 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[22] James Bruce of Kinnaird (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1790). Southey’s copy was no. 377 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[23] Joao de Barros (1496–1570) and Diogo de Couto (c. 1542–1616), Decadas da Asia fos Feitos, que os Portuguezes Fizeram na Conquista, e Descombrimento das Terras, e Mares do Oriente (1778–1788), no. 3180 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[24] The first two parts of ‘Descripção do estado em que ficavaõ os negocios de Mozambique em 1789’ appeared in O Investigador Portuguez, 12 (1815), 184–195, 375–384. No further instalments seem to have appeared. The journal was no. 3409 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[25] The pamphlet was James Kirke Paulding (1778–1860), The United States and England: being a Reply to the Criticism on Inchiquin’s Letters, contained in The Quarterly Review, for January, 1814 (1815). This was a response to the review of Charles Jared Ingersoll (1782–1862), Inchiquen, the Jesuit’s Letters, during a Late Residence in the United States of America; being a Fragment of a Private Correspondence, accidentally discovered in Europe, containing a favourable View of the Manners, Literature, and State of Society, of the United States; and a Refutation of many of the Aspersions cast upon this Country, by former Residents and Tourists. By some Unknown Foreigner (1810), in Quarterly Review, 10 (January 1814), 494–530. The author of the offending Quarterly article, which was highly critical of the United States, was not Walter Scott, but John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB). BACK

[26] See Southey to the Editor of the Courier, 16 June 1815, Letter 2616. BACK

[27] Paulding, The United States and England: being a Reply to the Criticism on Inchiquin’s Letters, contained in The Quarterly Review, for January, 1814 (New York, 1815), pp. 13, 58: the Poet Laureate’s ‘pay and rations … consist of a hundred pounds a year, and a butt of sack. This last, ever since the days of Jack Falstaff, has been supposed to exercise a most potent influence over laureats, by “ascending me to the brain,” and drying up the vapours’; ‘We have produced ample authorities to prove the deplorable extent of this practice of drinking in England, and, if any further example should be wanting, it may be found in the person of our laureat himself, who has sacrificed all the opinions and sentiments he formerly cherished, to the irresistible fascination of a butt of sack, and taken to tippling and scandalizing his neighbours most outrageously’. Further suggestions that Southey was a toper were on pp. 106 and 114. BACK

[28] The Hills’ sons, Edward, Herbert, Erroll and Alfred. BACK

[29] Reynold Davies (1752–1822), Curate of Streatham and a neighbour of Herbert Hill’s. He ran a school for small boys on land which he leased from Hester Thrale Piozzi’s (1741–1821; DNB) estate at Streatham Park. BACK

[30] The Arrowsmiths were a famous family of mapmakers, with premises at 10 Soho Square, London. They were drawing the map for volume 2 of the History of Brazil. Southey may be referring to the senior partner, Aaron Arrowsmith. BACK

[31] When you go … map: written at top of fol. 1 r. BACK

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August 2013