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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1560. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 31 December 1808 ⁠* 

I had all the books from Bristol sent here as soon as my determination of abiding among the mountains was made, – because they were suffering from damp, & were a constant source of trouble, vexation & expence: – otherwise there are many among them which I should not have packed up myself. Here is only your Lisbon-bound copy of Batalha. [1]  Roys book is here, [2]  completely unpasted by the damp, but without any other injury than this, which the bookbinder will perfectly repair. Johnsons & Postlethwaites Dictionaries [3]  have suffered materially by the damp, – so have the Athenian Letters [4]  – a book only to be regretted as being costly, – these are the only ones that have been injured by this cause. But Lisbon packing has hurt the Theocritus, [5]  & your large paper Joan of Arc. [6]  – Your Paley [7]  & Lady Russels Letters [8]  shall be sent with an odd volume of L’Esprit de le Ligne (to compleat your set – for I packed up the other two for you in town) – as soon as my second batch of copy for the printer is ready for its journey to Staunton – which it will be as soon as I have filled up the gap between Vasconcellos [9]  & Berredo. [10]  This I am doing by an account of the state of Bahia & the Reconcave at the time of the Usurpation, [11]  – from the Noticias, [12]  by the history of our English trade & piracy from Hakluyt {& Purchas}, [13]  – & by the affairs of Paraguay. In this last, which scanty materials render the most difficult of the whole, I keep only to those parts of the country which are contiguous to my own ground, -either on the side of the Matto grosso, – or of the Uraguay, {or the Plata} having nothing to do with Tucuman. The Spaniards, after Ercilla [14]  set the fashion had an odd custom of writing history in verse, – & after all the investigation which I have been able to make, I cannot learn that there is any other history of the last foundation of Buenos Ayres, & the transactions of those times than what is given in the Argentina, which Barcia has for this reason printed among the Historiadores. [15]  The first establishment of the Jesuits in Quayra belongs to this period, & I must be content with the abridged Techo in Churchill, [16]  & with Charlevoix [17]  (doubly a liar, by his xx country, & by his order) – unless any better documents are to be had from the Advocates Library at Edinburgh, – upon which forlorn hope I am about to write to Walter Scott. [18]  It is not of much importance, – in this sort of history the detail is generally made {up} of lies, & that form of generalizing narrative which is usually the trick of ignorance, is here the only means of avoiding falsehood. – These skeleton chapters will soon be filled up, & I shall send you the second portion of the volume, time enough to be returned to me for revision before Pople has got thro the first. I have corrected three sheets. – Will you send me your account of the falls of the Parana, which ought to be inserted here, that in Techo is the most monstrous exaggeration I have ever seen. [19] 

The Athenaeum gives scientific & literary news better than the Monthly Magazine, – in other respects they are pretty much what {as} Coleridge characterised them when upon Dr Aikins having been turned out of the one, & setting up the other, he was asked his opinion of their comparative merits – the one, said he, is an Aching Void, & the other a Void Aikin. The new Review [20]  I suppose will soon start, – Gifford wished to have my article by the 25th, – & he had it the day after – It relates wholly to the Baptist Mission, & I shall be enabled to judge by his admission, or his alterations of it, whether his journal is to be one in which I can honourably & conscientiously co-operate. [21]  I shall write two other articles upon the South Sea, & the South African Missions, – & if they prove in too manly a train of thought or language for him & his patrons (which however is not very likely) the whole may well be united in a seperate volume as a View & Vindication of the Existing Protestant Missions. [22]  My way of thinking will neither satisfy the Saints nor the Sinners, – but it will satisfy sincere & sober Christians, & sound reasoners.

O Is my aunt a reader of verses? – I ask this for two reasons, – because if she has not got Wordsworths Poems [23]  I wish to send them to her, – & because, notwithstanding the deformity of my working hand writing, I write manuscripts which are very much admired for their kalligraphy, & poetry has a sort of value in that shape, which is does not seem to possess after it has gone thro the Printers hands.

God bless you.


Dec. 31. 1808


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Staunton upon Wye/ Hereford
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Keswick Museum
Unpublished. BACK

[1] James Murphy (dates unknown), Plans, Elevations and Views of the Church of Batallia, in Portugal (1792). BACK

[2] Jacques Le Roy (1633–1719), Topographia Historica Gallo-Brabantiæ (1692). BACK

[3] Samuel Johnson (1709–1784; DNB), whose Dictionary was first published in 1755; Malachy Postlethwayt (1707?–1767; DNB), Universal Dictionary of Trade and Commerce (1757). BACK

[4] Athenian Letters: or, the Epistolary Correspondence of an Agent of the King of Persia, Residing at Athens during the Peloponnesian War (1741–1743 and many later editions). BACK

[5] Perhaps the Warton edition of this poet that was listed in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library as no. 2850: ‘Theocritus, Græce, cum Scholiis, Gossis et Notis Variorum cura Tho. Warton, 2 vol. Russia Oxonii, 1770’. BACK

[6] Southey ordered a few copies of luxury large paper printings of his epic poems for presentation to friends. Here he refers to his 1796 poem. BACK

[7] Probably William Paley (1743–1805; DNB), A View of the Evidences of Christianity (1794). BACK

[8] Rachel, Lady Russell (bap. 1637–1723; DNB), whose Letters were published in 1773. BACK

[9] A source in the first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil: Vida do Veneravel Padre Joseph de Anchieta, da Cde Jesu, Taumaturgo do Nouo Mundo, na Provincia do Brazil, Composta pello P. Simam de Vasconcellos, da Mesma Companhia (1672); no. 3799 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] Bernardo Pereira de Berredo e Castro (d. 1748), governor of Maranhão 1718–1722, author of Annaes Historicos do Estado do Maranhaō de sey Descivrunebtim, atè 1718 (1749). BACK

[11] See volume 1 of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810), pp. 580–592. BACK

[12] Southey several times refers in his History of Brazil to the Noticias manuscript as a valuable source (e.g. I, p. 312). Simón Pedro (b. 1565), Noticias Historiales de la Conquistas de Tierra Firme en las Indias Occidentales, Primera Parte (1626) was no. 3787 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[13] Richard Hakluyt (1552?–1615; DNB), The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoueries of the English Nation (1598–1600); Samuel Purchas (c. 1577–1626; DNB), His Pilgrimage, or Relations of the World (undated). The work was published in 1613; a second edition appeared in 1614 and a fourth, enlarged edition in 1626. BACK

[14] Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga (1533–1594) gave the history of the colonists’ efforts to conquer what is now Chile in the epic poem La Araucana (1589). BACK

[15] Andrés González de Barcia (1673–1743), Historiadores Primitivos de las Indias Occidentales (1749). BACK

[16] Nicolás del Techo (dates unknown), Historia de la Provincia del Paraguay de la Compania de Jesus (1673), abridged in A Collection of Voyages and Travels – a publication originally produced for and published by John (c.1663–c.1714; DNB) and Awnsham Churchill (1658–1728; DNB) in four volumes in 1704; the third edition of 1744–1746, owned by Southey, featured additional volumes collected by Thomas Osborne (bap. 1704?–d. 1767). BACK

[17] Pierre Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix (1682–1761), Histoire de Paraguay (1756). BACK

[18] This letter has not been traced, though Scott did borrow for Southey from the Advocates Library a copy of Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus, Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariæ (1784); see Southey to Walter Scott, 27 January 1809, Letter 1571 and Southey to Herbert Hill, 7 February 1809, Letter 1578. BACK

[19] In Nicolás del Techo (dates unknown), Historia de la Provincia del Paraguay de la Compania de Jesus (1673). BACK

[20] The Quarterly Review. BACK

[21] Southey reviewed Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. BACK

[22] Southey reviewed Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands in Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 24–61. Missionary work in South Africa was discussed in the Quarterly by John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), for example in volume 22 (July 1819), 203–246. BACK

[23] Southey arranged for Catherine Hill to be sent Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads and other Poems, 2 vols (1800) and Poems in Two Volumes (1807); see Southey to Herbert Hill, 8 March 1809, Letter 1596. BACK

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August 2013