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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1405. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 27 December [1807] ⁠* 

My dear Harry

I have sent you a parcel of books, tho Wordsworth has provokingly still detained the Joinville, [1]  in spite of repeated application for it. Do Burnetts Poland first & the sooner the better. You have merely to present an abstract of its contents, & give the most amusing extracts, 20 {or 25} pages of that open type will not be too many to extract. you are aware that you need not copy them. He speaks of the stink of the Jews – you should remark that this prejudice was not originally confined to them, it was a received opinion that all unbelievers had a noxious smell, for which baptism was a cure. Bertrandon La Brocquiere says that the mother of the Lord of Turcomania being a Xtian herself – her caused her son to be christened to take from him the smell & odour of those who are not baptized; – he mentions another instance, & adds that all the grandes in that country get themselves baptized to take off the bad smell. [2] 

Go next to the Sermon about the Methodists, [3]  for it will be the next that is wanted –

For the Triumphs of Petrarch [4]  I find these notes references ready. P. xxviii. A little credulous Mr Boyd to believe any thing of the Gauls 1177 years before the Xtian æra. 11. The hoary sage. Aristotle. a note is required upon this passage. – The Triumph of Chastity – Phineas Fletchers poem [5]  is in part an expansion of this.

Yriartes Music [6]  you x will analize & can praise but little. It has great reputation in the original, & if you are minded to exhibit a specimen of it by way of comparison with what must I have no doubt be a bad translation, you will find it at Rickmans. {Notice how infamously Balfour translated the fables of this author utterly misunderstanding them.}

Wilcockes book about Buenos Ayres [7]  is less bad than such {most} hasty-pudding books which are cooked when they are called for. He is a man of much information who translated Stavorinus’s Voyages, & has published a very good Dutch Dictionary, which you may mention with praise.

My references to Rennies [8]  are, 91. Guinea Grass. 121! – 145. Corinthian bush! – (I suppose he merely notices the absurd phrase). 170 obi. 176 a pretty way saying they are burnt on! 241. The song New come buckra. – You may too criticise the type of the preface which is the only specimen I have seen of that gouty fashion –

The reply to Malthus is William Hazlitts  [9]  who wrote the a famous metaphysical book two years ago, [10]  & is certainly a very clever man, tho it is impossible to have any liking for him. The passage I had transcribed to begin the review with, ‘Some says x old Holinshead, do grudge at the great increase of people in these days, thinking a necessary brood of cattle far better than a superfluous augmentation of mankind. But if it should come to pass that any foreign invasion should be made (which the Lord God forbid for his mercies sake!) then should men find that a wall of men is far better than stacks of corn, & bags of money, & complain of the want when it is too late to seek remedy.’ Our good old Chronicler likens such men to the Pope & the Devil – I am going on to show that he labelled the Pope & the Devil, because none of these devices were half so foolish.


There is only one physician at Whitehaven, who is known by the name of Jos. Dixon, [11]  has more business than he can manage, & is not in high repute. there is none nearer than Carlisle on the one side, & Kendal on the other – unless there be at Ulverston – of which I am not sure. Of course the practise of Workington & Cockermouth is to be looked to, & the whole coast, which I should think well peopled enough with good families to afford practise employment. Jos Dixon is about 50 – there is the double chance of succeeding & superseding him. You are introduced at Netherhall on the one side, & at Irton on the other, & I think you have seen Curwen [12]  also – but the introduction with Senhouse is sufficient will no doubt introduce you to Ld Lonsdale, & to the whole line of his connections & &, I shall make farther enquiry, for as yet he has not made his appearance, & this is what Jackson tells me. But this has a promising appearance far beyond what Thetford can possibly have. – I look daily for answers from Wilkinson [13]  & Clarkson.

My proposal that you should return here with me, proceeded from the supposition that you would not try your fortune any where, till you had found a fair opening, & that very likely the summer might pass over before such a one presented itself. Even in the best situation business will come in slowly, & time lost in growing older would be time gained. Am I right in understanding you that you mean to marry as soon as you have a found a situation, & before you have felt your way in one? It is certain that as a single man you cannot get into practise, & I shall be the last person to accuse you of imprudence, – yet I am uneasy at the p immediate prospect. It is only at the immediate one, for that we shall continue to go on better & better I have full faith. – Should you fix upon any place in the North you will however of course come here first, – for you Doctors when once settled are fast, & if our sister elect does not pay a wedding visit to the Lakes heaven knows when she will see us. – I look very wistfully towards Whitehaven, – to have you {be} within an easy days walk [MS torn] add much to our enjoyment. The situation is more promising than you seem to think it, from the number of good families that lie within [MS torn]

I have received a letter from John May in the manly stile which was to be expected from him. The news from Lisbon set me at first in a glow. [14]  I thought of the event with the feelings of a poet & a historian, – & with such feelings as no person less familiar with the whole story of the country could have experienced. But it now makes me heavy-hearted – I cannot help thinking of those English who are left behind, – & of those who have {been} driven away from their family-burial place. If I know my Uncle this breaking up of the great family in which he has lived so many years, – men {of whom} he has buried one generation, married a second, & baptized a third, & by whom he was so entirely beloved, – if I know him, the political earthquake which has scattered that the factory & reduced its dependents to ruin, will leave a wound upon his spirits which nothing can heal. Mine are far more affected by it than I should have supposed, or than any person would imagine.

God bless you


Sunday 27. Dec.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ 11. Craven Street/ Strand/ London
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: E/ DEC 30/ 1807
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG.1996.5.57
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Thomas Johnes (1748–1816; DNB) translated Sir John Froissart’s Chronicles of England, France, and the Adjoining Countries, from the Latter Part of the Reign of Edward II to the Coronation of Henry IV (1804) and the Memoirs of John Lord de Joinville, Grand Seneschal of Champagne Written by Himself (1807). The book was reviewed in Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 215–219. BACK

[2] Southey reviewed, in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 2–11, Bertrandon de la Brocquière (c. 1400–1459), The Travels of Bertrandon de la Brocquière to Palestine: and his Return from Jerusalem Overland to France, During the Years 1432 & 1433, tr. Thomas Johnes (1748–1816; DNB) (1807). The story about infidels’ supposed smell appears on pp. 166 and 190. BACK

[3] Henry’s review of Joseph Cooke (1775–1811), Methodism condemned by Methodist Preachers: or a Vindication of the Doctrines contained in Two Sermons on Justification by Faith, and the Witness of the Spirit; for Which the Author was expelled from the Methodist Connection (1807) appeared in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 169. BACK

[4] Henry’s review of Rev. Henry Boyd (1748/9–1832; DNB), The Triumphs of Petrarch (1807) appeared in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 581–584. BACK

[5] Poems by the brothers Phineas Fletcher (1582–1650; DNB) and Giles Fletcher (1586?-1623; DNB) continued in the vein of Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374), ‘Triumph of Chastity’ (one of the Trionfi, 1351–1374). They were published together in an edition of 1783 as The Purple Island, or The Isle of Man: An Allegorical Poem, by Phineas Fletcher, Esteemed the Spenser of His Age; To Which Is Added Christ’s Victory and Triumph: A Poem, in Four Parts, by Giles Fletcher. BACK

[6] Henry’s review of John Balfour (dates unknown), Music, a Didactic Poem, Translated from the Spanish of Yriarte (1807) appeared in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 575–581. John Balfour had previously authored Fables on Subjects connected with Literature; imitated from the Spanish of Don Tomas Yriarte (1804). BACK

[7] Henry’s review of Samuel Hull Wilcocke (1766–1833), History of the Vice-royalty of Buenos Ayres (1807) appeared in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 260–263. Wilcocke had previously published Voyages to the East Indies by the Late John Splinter Stavorinus (1798) and A New and Complete Dictionary of the English and Dutch Languages (1798). BACK

[8] Henry’s review of Robert Renny (dates unknown), An History of Jamaica. With Observations on the Climate, Scenery, Trade, Productions, Negroes, Slave Trade, Diseases of Europeans, Customs, Manners and Dispositions of the Inhabitants appeared in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 254–260. BACK

[9] Henry’s review of William Hazlitt, Reply to the Essay on Population by the Rev. T. R. Malthus (1807) appeared in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 351–356. The review began with the transcription from Raphael Holinshed (c.1525–1580?; DNB), Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1577) which Southey provided for Henry. BACK

[10] Hazlitt’s An Essay on the Principles of Human Action (1805). BACK

[11] Dr. Joshua Dixon (1744–1825), of Lowther Street, Whitehaven. BACK

[12] John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), Whig MP for Carlisle, Workington landowner. BACK

[13] Joseph Wilkinson (1764–1831), Anglican priest, lived at Ormathwaite Hall near Keswick and subsequently became Rector of East and West Wretham, Norfolk. Wilkinson was an amateur artist whose drawings of the Lake District were published, with an introduction by Wordsworth, as Select Views in Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire (1810). Southey hoped Wilkinson would recommend Henry to a medical practice in Norfolk. BACK

[14] The French conquest of Lisbon and the flight of the Portuguese royal family to Brazil. For May and Hill, the event meant the destruction of the British community of merchants there in which they had lived. BACK

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August 2013