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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1566. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 15 [January] 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany  [1]  15. 1809.

My dear Wm Taylor

At length I have laid hand on a Prospectus, which I send you rather as a thing worth having, than for any other use; for it was {Coleridge} sent {it} abroad hastily, without consideration on his own part, or consultation with any body else, – & both the how & the when xxxxof publication remain yet to be settled. [2]  My advice to him is not to venture upon any periodical task, because I am quite certain he will never will d be ready in time; – but to publish a half crown or five shilling number [MS torn] whenever he can be ready with one. That something should be done I am very anxious, because if t what there is in Coleridge be not drawn out of him in this way, it will never be drawn out of him at all.

I thank you for De Lery, [3]  which has proved of greater value than I expected, inasmuch as De Bry, [4]  like a right Roman Catholick has omitted the whole chapter relating to Ville-gagnon, [5]  – the main part of the preface, – & most of the parts which expose Thevets ignorance & knavery. [6]  Even from the book thus mutilated I had, by the help of Thuanus, [7]  formed an opinion, which the additional facts thus got at, compleatly verify & establish. My Bayle I fear is xxxxthe first edition, for I can find nothing there upon the subject. [8]  Moreri has something about it, in his usual meagre & wretched way. [9] 

I do not by any means either dispute or xxxx{doubt} that the Caraibes of the French are our Carribs, xxxx– but in De Lery the word is different. [10]  It means there the Tupi [11]  priests, who were Tupis themselves: but it is used improperly both by him & some of the Portugueze writers, for Marcgrave (what is the Dutch orthography of that name?) makes the distinction, & explains Paye to be the Conjurer, Caraiba his power of conjuration. [12] 

The Courier, not the Edinburgh Review, speaks my opinions with respect to Spain. The only political revolution which that country needed took place & ipso facto upon the kidnapping of the royal family, by the establishment of the different Juntas – for Spain has only to recur to its old constitution, long suspended, but never repealed or destroyed, to be a free nation. As for religious reformation – that as you perceive Buonaparte is enacting, – a proof, if proof were needed, that the whole clergy are against him, as well as the whole people. Every thing is to be expected from the Spaniards except what our Ministers choose to expect, that they should at once be able to stand against equal or superior numbers of the French in the field. We should have borne the first brunt, & trained them to be soldiers just as they teach the young skaiters in Holland. – But it would fill a larger sheet than this to point out all the gross blunders which we have committed. Still I am confident that Spain will finally deliver itself, tho it we shall perhaps see it at first over-run, – I am the more confident because in xxx {every} instance xxx my expectations with regard to that country xxx have been verified.

The Grenvilles & Foxites will seperate upon the question of peace. [13]  Canning hankers after the former, & would gladly have them in with him. Neither the King [14]  nor the people will like it; – the King will never be so well pleased as with an administration composed of his menials, for such they are, – & the people dislike the Grenvilles: the Republicans however will be with them against the peacemakers. I have but one opinion & one feeling here, – that the scabbard must be thrown away, & that our whole disposable force should be sent to Spain. The very Quakers admit that peace cannot be wished for upon any other principle than their own. Your admiration of Jeffray is to me quite surprizing. Cobbet may be an honest writer by popularity, because he has gone regularly on from the extreme point of Jacobinism Anti-Jacobinism to the other end of the political scale. [15]  But Jeffray must be a rogue, because he has gone backwards & forwards. Look at the wretched justification of war in the first number, & compare this with the wretched justifications of peace now. [16]  Look at his defence of all existing abuses when the party to whom he had at last attached himself were, as he supposed, safely in, & then judge what credit is due to his democracy when they are out. There was an able article in the Courier some weeks ago, setting him against himself in two parallel columns, & never was pamphleteering tergiversation more decidedly proved. [17] 

Your argument that schools, not churches, ought to be the instrument of conversion, is I believe the only one which I have not entered into in my reviewal of the Baptist Mission & Buchanan controversy. [18]  The schools are the necessary consequence of the mission, – without it they could do little, – for it is not desirable to undermine an old superstition without giving something in its place. This was the error of Voltaire [19]  & the French Anti-Xtians, – had they been content with Socianism, [20]  or what is better with a philosophical Quakerism France would at this day have been xxxxfree, & we should have won that game sixteen years ago, which was lost for us by the union of Atheism with Jacobinism. As for the crazy Calvinism of the Missionaries, I regard that just as you do, & take especial care never to be misunderstood when the subject comes in my way, – but Missionaries must be crazy (according to the common acceptation of the word) or they would not be Missionaries, – & I hold it something worse than craziness to keep out of sight the great qualities connected with their enthusiasm.

No enquiry has yet been made here concerning Mr Bolingbroke. [21]  I am very glad that you are once more got into a review, tho it will not fall in my way to see the Critical, [22]  – this years Annual I fear will seem very flat to me from your default. [23]  My own articles in it were none of them written with much pleasure. they are few in number, & I suspect there is little reason to wish there had been more of them, unless the books had been better, – for unlike you, I stick to my text, & if that is not a lucky one, the discourse is not likely to make amends for its defects. Perhaps it is bad policy in Longman not to pay such a price as to make exertion incumbent, & enable his authors always to afford it.

God bless you

R Southey.


* Address: To/ Wm Taylor Junr Esqr/ Surry Street/ Norwich/ Single sheet
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4861
Previously published: John Warden Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 261–266.
Dating note: date changed in MS from ‘Feby’ to ‘Jany’. The letter is dated ‘Jan 15’ in Robberds. In his reply of 10 March, Taylor thanks Southey for two letters, of which this must be ‘the one enclosing Coleridge’s prospectus received in January’ (p. 270). BACK

[1] Changed from ‘Feby’. BACK

[2] For Coleridge’s new periodical The Friend, the first number of which was published on 1 June 1809. BACK

[3] Jean de Léry (1536–1613), Histoire d’un Voyage fait en la Terre du Bresil (1578), was no. 1709 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] The collection of travel narratives published by Theodor and Johann Israel De Bry (1528–1598), Peregrinationes (1598–1613). BACK

[5] Nicolas Durand, de Villegaignon (or Villegagnon) (1510–1571), who invaded Brazil in 1555 to claim it as a French colony, with a group of Huguenots and Calvinists who were escaping Catholic persecution. Disgusted by disputes between the Protestant and Catholic colonists, Villegagnon condemned some of the Calvinists to death, withdrew his support, and returned to France. In 1558 the colonists were defeated by the Portuguese. BACK

[6] André Thevet (1502–1590), whose Les Singularitez de la France Antarctique (1557) purported to be a first-hand account of a French expedition to Brazil. The ‘Collection’ could be his Cosmographie Universelle (1575). Southey owned editions of both works, nos 2852 and 2677 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] Jacques Auguste de Thou (Thuanus) (1553–1617), author of Historia sui Temporis (1620) and Memoires (1620). BACK

[8] Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, the first edition of which was published 1695–1697. BACK

[9] Louis Moréri (1643–1680), Le Grand Dictionnaire Historique (1732), no. 1917 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] Jean de Léry (1536–1613), Histoire d’un Voyage fait en la Terre du Bresil (1578), no. 1709 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[11] An Indian tribe of the Amazon. BACK

[12] Georg Marcgrave/Georg Marggraf (1610–1648), born in Saxony, Marggraf went to Brazil in 1638 in the expedition of the Dutch led by John Maurice/Johan Maurits of Nassau (1604–1679). Marggraf’s papers on natural history were published, after his death, with editorial input from Joannes de Laet (1581–1649) as part of the work of the expedition’s physician Willem Piso/Willem Pies (1611–1678) (1581–1649) in the Historia Naturalium Brasiliae (1648). BACK

[13] Factions within the Whig party who were followers of the policies of Charles James Fox or William Wyndham Grenville. BACK

[14] George III (1738–1820, King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB). BACK

[15] A severe review of Cobbett’s Political Register, in The Edinburgh Review, 10 (July 1807), 386–421, had created a long lasting enmity between Francis Jeffrey and the radical (ex-Tory) journalist William Cobbett. BACK

[16] Southey gave chapter and verse for Jeffrey’s Edinburgh Review articles on the war in the notes to his poem Carmen Triumphale (1814). He cited ‘Mr Whitbread’s Letter on Spain’, Edinburgh Review, no. 24 (July 1808), 441; ‘Exposition of the Practices and Machinations which led to the Usurpation of the Crown of Spain, and the Means adopted by the Emperor of the French to carry it into Execution’, Edinburgh Review, no. 25 (October 1808), 215; ‘Emancipation of Spanish America’, Edinburgh Review, no. 26 (January 1809), 298. BACK

[17] This article has not been traced. BACK

[18] Southey’s review was of the Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (published from 1794); [John Scott-Waring (1747–1819; DNB)], Vindication of the Hindoos from the Aspersions of the Reverend Claudius Buchanan, M.A. With a Refutation of the Arguments Exhibited in his Memoir, on the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India, and the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives, by their Conversion to Christianity… By a Bengal Officer (1808); Thomas Twining (1776–1861; DNB), A Letter to the Chairman of the East India Company, on the Danger of Interfering in the Religious Opinions of the Natives of India; and on the Views of the British and Foreign Bible Society, as Directed to India (1807), published in the newly formed Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. Claudius Buchanan (1766–1815; DNB) was an East India Company chaplain who laboured zealously for the promotion of Christianity and education in India. BACK

[19] Francois Marie Arouet (pen name Voltaire) (1694–1778), atheist, satirist and philosopher. BACK

[20] Based on the teachings of Faustus Socinus (1539–1604) who rejected traditional Christian doctrines, such as belief in the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. BACK

[21] Henry Bolingbroke’s (1785–1855; DNB), A Voyage to the Demarary (1807) was revised by William Taylor and published as A Voyage to the Demarary, Containing a Statistical Account of the Settlements there and of those on the Essequebo, the Berbice and other Contiguous Rivers of Guyana, in 1809. BACK

[22] Taylor had been invited to review regularly for the Critical Review. BACK

[23] The Annual Review, for which Taylor and Southey had both written reviews. Southey’s last contributions appeared in the volume for 1808. BACK

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August 2013