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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1159. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 23 February 1806 ⁠* 

Feb 23. 1806

Dear Duppa

Nicholson, I see, sets up a new review. [1]  Carlisle ought to get you well taken care of there. Need you be told the history of all reviews? If a book falls into the hands of one who is neither friend nor enemy, – which for a man known in the world is not very likely – the reviewer will find fault to show his own superiority, though he be as ignorant of the subject upon which he writes as an ass is of metaphysics, or John Pinkerton of Welsh antiquities and Spanish literature. [2]  As your book, therefore, has little chance of fair play, get it into the hands of your friends. Have you any access to the Monthly? [3] 

For politics. As far as the public is concerned, God be praised! How far I may be concerned, remains to be seen. My habits are now so rooted, that everything not connected with my own immediate pursuit seems of secondary consequence, and as far as relates to myself, hardly worth a hope or fear. So far as anything can be given me which will facilitate that pursuit, I greatly desire it, and have good reason to expect the best. But nothing that can happen will in any way affect my plan of operations for the present year. I go to London in a month’s time, I go to Lisbon in the autumn, and in the interim must work like a negro. By the by, cannot you give me a letter to Bartolozzi? [4]  he will like to see an Englishman who can talk to him of the persons with whom he was acquainted in England.

I am reading an Italian History of Heresies in four folios, by a certain Domenico Bernino. [5]  If there be one thing in the world which delights me more than another, it is ecclesiastical history. This book of Bernino’s is a very useful one for a man who knows something of the subject, and is aware how much is to be believed, and how much is not.

My reviewing is this day finished for ever and ever, amen. Our fathers who are in the Row [6]  will, I daresay, wish me to continue at the employment, but I am weary of it. Seven years have I been, like Sir Bevis, preying upon ‘rats and mice, and such small deer,’ [7]  and for the future will fly at better game. It is best to choose my own subjects.

You mentioned once to me certain prophetical drawings by a boy. Did you see them, or can you give me any particulars concerning them? for I find them connected with Joanna Southcote, of whose prophecies I have about a dozen pamphlets, and about whom Don Manuel is going to write a letter. [8]  I like our friend Huntingdon’s Bank of Faith [9]  so well on a cooler perusal, that I shall look for two other of his works [10]  at the shop of his great friend, Baker, [11]  in Oxford Street. That man is a feature in the age, and a great man in his way. People who are curious to see extraordinary men, and go looking after philosophers and authors only, are something like the good people in genteel life, who pay nobody knows what for a cod’s head, and don’t know the luxury of eating sprats. Oh! Wordsworth sent me a man the other day, who was worth seeing; he looked like a first assassin in Macbeth as to his costume, but he was a rare man. He had been a lieutenant in the navy, was scholar enough to quote Virgil aptly, had turned Quaker or semi-Quaker, and was now a dealer in wool somewhere about twenty miles off. He had seen much and thought much, his head was well stored, and his heart in the right place.

It is five or six and twenty years since he was at Lisbon, and he gave me as vivid a description of the Belem Convent, [12]  as if the impression in his memory was not half a day old. Edridge’s acquaintance, Thomas Wilkinson, [13]  came with him. They had both been visiting an old man of a hundred in the Vale of Lorton, and it was a fine thing to hear this Robert Foster [14]  describe him. God bless you!

R. S.


Notes

* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 27–30. BACK

[1] William Nicholson (1753–1815; DNB) had set up, in 1797, the Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and the Arts, popularly known as ‘Nicholson’s journal’. The review he commenced in 1806 was the General Review of British and Foreign Literature. BACK

[2] John Pinkerton (1758–1826; DNB): Scottish antiquarian and cartographer whose many publications earned him a reputation for irreligious views, arrogant irritability and personal immorality. In A Dissertation on the Origin and Progress of the Scythians or Goths (1787), Pinkerton argued that the Celts were incapable of rising to high levels of civilisation and sought to prove that Scottish place names were not of Celtic origin: he wished to trace the Scottish people to the ancient Goths and to purge Scottish culture of Celticism. Pinkerton criticised Sharon Turner for treating, in his History of the Anglo-Saxons (1799–1805), recently-published Welsh poems as historical documents detailing real events of the sixth century. Pinkerton assumed them to be forgeries. Turner replied to Pinkerton’s critique in his Vindication of the Genuineness of the Ancient British poems of Aneurin, Taliessin, Llywarch Hen, and Myrddin (1803). BACK

[3] The Monthly Review. BACK

[4] Francesco Bartolozzi (1728–1815; DNB), engraver, was born in Florence, Italy and lived and worked in Britain from 1764 onwards. In 1801 he moved to Lisbon where he stayed until his death. Southey anticipated meeting Bartolozzi on his projected visit to Portugal, which never took place. BACK

[5] Domenico Bernini (1657–1723), Istoria, di Tutte l’Heresie (1705–1717). BACK

[6] A jokey reference to Southey’s publisher Thomas Norton Longman, who had premises in Paternoster Row (‘Paternoster’ meaning ‘Our father’) in London. BACK

[7] King Lear, Act 3, scene 4, line 151. BACK

[8] An account of the prophet Joanna Southcott is given in Letter 70 of Letters from England: by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). In the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, no. 2082 is listed as ‘Pamphlets on Copyright, and Rights of Literature, Currency, Savings Banks, Joanna Southcott, Corn Laws, and Miscellaneous, in 12 vol’. BACK

[9] William Huntington (1745–1813; DNB), God the Guardian of the Poor and the Bank of Faith (1784; 1785–1802). BACK

[10] Huntington wrote several other works including: The Kingdom of Heaven Taken by Prayer (1784), The Naked Bow, or, A Visible Display of the Judgments of God on the Enemies of Truth (1794), Epistles of Faith (1785–97) and Living Testimonies (1794–1806). BACK

[11] J. Baker (dates unknown), a grocer of 226 Oxford St, sold Huntington’s works from his shop. BACK

[12] The Hieronymites Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) is located in the Belém district of Lisbon. BACK

[13] Probably Thomas Wilkinson (1751–1836), the Cumbrian landscape gardener, who owned a small estate at Yanwath, south of Penrith, and advised William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale (1757–1844; DNB), on improvements to his grounds. BACK

[14] Robert Foster (1754–1827; DNB), naval officer and benefactor. He owned Hebblethwaite Hall near Lancaster, and became a friend of Southey’s after Wordsworth’s introduction to him. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013