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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1623. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 1 May 1809]⁠* 

Gebir was to be in town on the 2d – & I suppose has found his way to you. If not, he soon will, – ergo the inclosed.

My dear Rickman

This great parcel requires some explanation. By my Uncles advice I leave out a chapter, [1]  now in the Printers hands, which would have occupied not less than 70 or 80 pages. It related to the history of an expedition down the Orellana by Pedro de Orsua, who was killed by mutineers, & a madman notorious in American history by the name of Lopo de Aguirre proceeded down the river to the Island of St Margarite, landed on the Spanish main, & attempted to march to Peru & conquer it for himself. [2]  After a good deal of perplexity whether or no this belonged to my subject I satisfied my conscience by writing this chapter, & now satisfy my judgement by conforming to my Uncles opinion & omitting it. But that Pople may not be at a stand I send off a chapter which is ready. get it franked for me, – my Uncle will return it to you, & then let the Printers boy take it back when he brings a proof sheet.

This map is incorrigible. I have corrected as many names along the coast as I could find, – this part Aaron [3]  will be able to improve & fill up from the Brazil Pilot. [4]  I send for him herewith some documents concerning the Diamond Country [5]  – containing some {thing} five facts that have not yet appeared in the maps.

I am induced to suspect that all the maps make the Island de Joanes in the mouth of the Orellana, [6]  much too large, & distort the course of the river. Pimentel (the B Pilot) [7]  makes it 10 or 12 leagues long. Ask Aaron how this is to be reconciled xxxx with his map? – There came fri some friars down the river from the place where Orellana set off before them, – they were running away from the Savages. – & they reached Para, not knowing where they were, nor how they had got there, such was their fright & fatigue. How should they get to Para by following the stream – if the maps be right? I believe the I de Joanes is {made} four times as big as it ought to be, & that the space which is filled with this exaggeration should be full of small islands & labyrinthine channels, the main stream flowing by Para. –

While I was writing your letter arrived. I accede to your argument for placing the map in the first volume, – expence is of no consequence – Whatever the map costs will be considered in the price of the book, & my only concern in it is as a halver of eventual profit. [8]  I would therefore have as fine a map as can be made. Paraguay is the only part of the Spanish possessions which should have all its places marked, – for the rest then should be only the chief places, & the rivers.

This stoppage of proofs rather alarms me. By a blunder of Longmans my last package of MSS was not forwarded into Herefordshire as it ought to have been for previous examination by my Uncle. [9]  As soon as I discovered this I instructed Pople to send off the two Chapters on which he had not begun, – they arrived safe & were detained only two days, but the non-arrival of proofs here makes me apprehend some mishap on their return.

I live in hopes of a journey to Falmouth. The present spirit of reform look to nothing but paltry savings of expenditure, – yet I do not think it can help according to better things, & believe that it will not be long before Parliament must be reformed, or the Crown made absolute. In the one case England will be what I would willingly part with a few limbs to xx make it, – in the other, – thank God there is a good climate in Brazil & I can speak Portugueze, for by Gods blessing if I am to live under a Despotism it shall not be at home. But I have no heart for the ultimate result. There is a dolorous lack of talents among the Rogues on both sides, & if there be any xxx truth in the classical adage Jupiter certainly designs to destroy them. [10] 

I have had a week of great anxiety. Poor Herbert has had the croupe, – & is now like a little Lazarus from the effects of blistering his throat. This bitter weather delays his recovery by confining him still to the house. Thank God he has escaped the xxxx from the disease – but six ounces of blood taken from the jugular vein – then blisters – & the eruption which it has occasioned on his face, – have made him a melancholy object, – instead of the beautiful creature he was ten days ago. Still God be thanked he is recovered, & a few weeks of fine weather will enable him to cast his slough.

Bedfords review was not duller than monthly ware in ordinary, tho quite sufficiently so. [11]  I believe however the cause of its rejection to have some been ill-will in some unknown enemy, to whose ill will that Review for the last ten years bears testimony.

This is the month of May – tell Mrs R. I hope we are not to be disappointed of seeing her this year. My boat is just caulked & I wait for your coming to lay in a stock of exercise for my next hybernation.

God bless you



* Endorsement: RS./ Prob. May 1st. 1809
MS: Huntington Library, RS 141
Dating note: dating from JR’s endorsement BACK

[1] Of the History of Brazil, 3 vols (1810–1819). For further details, see Southey to the Herbert Hill, 2 May 1809, Letter 1624. BACK

[2] Southey took from Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1559–1625), Historia General del Mundo del Tiempo del Rey Felipe II, desde 1559 haste su Muerte (1601–1612) the story of the ill-fated Amazon expedition of exploration conducted by Pedro de Ursúa (1526–1561) and Lope de Aguirre (c. 1510–1561). However, he omitted it from his History of Brazil and instead published it in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.2 (1812) and then separately as The Expedition of Orsua: and the Crimes of Aguirre (1821). BACK

[3] Aaron Arrowsmith (1750–1823; DNB), cartographer of Soho Square, London, renowned for his 1790 large chart of the world. Among Arrowsmith’s other productions were A Map of America (1804), which depicted North and South America. The second volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1817) contained Arrowsmith’s Map of Brazil and Paraguay with the Adjoining Countries. BACK

[4] Manoel Pimentel (1650–1719), The Brazil Pilot; or, a Description of the Coast of Brazil, Translated from the Portuguese of Manoel Pimentel … to which are added, Charts, of some of its most Considerable Ports (1809; translated by Herbert Hill). This was no. 2331 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Miners prospecting for gold in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil made the first diamond discovery in 1725. By 1740, there was a major diamond rush and mining in the region reached its peak between 1785 and 1807. BACK

[6] The Amazon River. BACK

[7] See note 3. BACK

[8] This plan was not adopted. BACK

[9] See Southey to the Herbert Hill, [early April 1809], Letter 1612. BACK

[10] ‘Quem Jupiter vult perdere, dementat prius’, an anonymous ancient proverb, which translates as ‘Whom the Gods (Jupiter) would destroy, they first make mad’. BACK

[11] Southey had asked Bedford to write a review of his Chronicle of the Cid (1808) for the Monthly Review; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 February 1809, Letter 1590. The book was reviewed in complimentary terms in the Monthly Review, 63 (1810), 131–144. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013