2930. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 28 February 1817

2930. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 28 February 1817⁠* 

Keswick 28 Feby. 1817.

Your copies of Brazil [1]  are I hope by this time delivered at the Doctors; & in a day or two I shall send the third volume to the press, for if I should only get thro a single chapter before my journey, it will be so much gained. My movements will be upon a wide scale. I purpose to start for London the second week in April, & if you are then in Hampshire [2]  to run down to you for a week, as soon as I have rested myself & shaken hands with Bedford & Rickman. And on May day, or as soon after as my companions can be ready I start with Senhouse of Netherhall (my only Cumberland friend) & my old former compagnon de voyage Nash, [3]  for the continent, – from six weeks to two months is to be the length of our furlough, during which we mean to get as far as the Lago Maggiore & Milan, back over the Alps a second time, & seeing as much as we can of Switzerland, to return by way of the Rhine, & reach home as early as possible in July.

I learn from todays Courier that Brougham has been attacking me in the House of Commons, – the only place where he dares attack any body without a mask. [4]  I hope this affair will give no friend <of mine> any more vexation than it does me. Immediately upon seeing the book advertised I wrote to Wynn & to Turner, giving them the whole facts, & proposing to obtain an injunction in Chancery. [5]  How they will determine I do not yet know, – perhaps as Brougham has thus given full publicity to the thing, they may not think it advisable to proceed, but let it rest, considering it as it really is of no importance. Men of this stamp who live in the perpetual fever of faction are as little capable of disturbing my tranquillity as they are of understanding it.

I have just finished the notes & preface to the Morte Arthur, [6]  – a thing well paid for. For the next Quarterly I have to review Mariners Tonga Islands (including a good word for our friend the Captain) [7]  – & to write upon the Report of the Secret Committees, – but I shall fly from the text, & saying as little as may be upon the present, examine what are the causes which make men discontented in this country, & what the means which may tend to heal this foul gangrene in the body politic. [8]  Never was any paper so emasculated as my last, [9]  & yet it was impossible to resent it, – for it was done in compassion to the weakness, the embarrassments & the fears of the Ministry. They express themselves much indebted to me, in reply to their intimations of a desire to show their sense of this I have expressed a wish that Tom may be remembered when there is a promotion in the navy. For myself I want nothing; – nor would I indeed accept anything. They give me credit for a reasonable share of foresight, & perhaps wish that my advice had been taken four years ago. [10]  I had some correspondence with Bedford at the close of the year, part of which went to Ld Liverpool, & whether it enabled him or not to see things as they are, must certainly xxx have made him open his eyes. [11]  I was desired to come up to London & have an interview with him, – but I was perfectly aware that this could answer no good end, & had a shrewd suspicion also (which proved to be well founded) of the silly & unworthy scheme which would have been proposed. So I kept aloof, & stand no doubt the higher in his opinion, – if that were or could be of the smallest consequence to a man who has no worldly views.

Lord Sheffield has offered me communications respecting the army in the South of Spain where his son in law Sir Henry Clinton was second in command: [12]  they will explain the movements by which Suchet was prevented from joining Soult at the battle of Tholouse. [13] 

Love to my Aunt & the Orsini, [14]  I shall not leave London without paying a visit to x Duke Edward.

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Worting/ near/ Basingstoke/ Hampshire
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 3 MR 3/ 1817
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 158. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 249–250 [in part]. BACK

[1] The second volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[2] At Manydown Park, home of Herbert Hill’s wife’s family. BACK

[3] Nash had met Southey on his journey to the Low Countries in 1815. BACK

[4] On 24 February 1817 Brougham, speaking in the House of Commons on the Cabinet’s Seditious Meetings Bill, had contrasted the prosecution of radical writers with the government’s refusal to act against Southey for the pirated publication of Wat Tyler (1817) the radical play he had written in 1794. Southey had learned of this attack from the Courier, 26 February 1817. BACK

[5] Southey had sent Wat Tyler to James Ridgway (1755–1838), and Henry Symonds (1741–1816), radical booksellers, for publication; see Robert Southey to Edith Fricker, [c. 12 January 1795], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 123. Ridgway and Symonds did not publish it and it remained in manuscript until a pirated publication, designed to embarrass the now anti-Jacobin Southey, appeared in 1817. Having taken advice from Wynn and Turner, Southey launched a suit in Chancery so as to gain an injunction suppressing the publication. BACK

[6] The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur (1817). BACK

[7] Southey reviewed, among other books on the Tonga islands, John Martin (1789–1869; DNB), An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean, with an Original Grammar and Vocabulary of their Language (1817) in Quarterly Review, 17 (April 1817), 1–39. This book told the story of the ship’s boy William Mariner (1791–1853) who lived in the Tonga islands from 1806 to 1810 after the local people attacked his ship and killed his crewmates. Southey also reviewed in the same essay, Burney’s A Chronological History of the Voyages and Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean; Illustrated with Charts and Plates (1816). BACK

[8] Southey’s article ‘Rise and Progress of Popular Disaffection’, Quarterly Review, 16 (January 1817), 511–552. The books of which it was nominally a review included the Report of the Secret Committee of the House of Commons, Respecting Certain Meetings and Dangerous Combinations (1817), which investigated recent revolutionary outbreaks and reported on 19 February 1817. BACK

[9] The article ‘emasculated’ by the editorial hand of Gifford was ‘Parliamentary Reform’, Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 225–278. BACK

[10] Southey refers to the warnings he gave about popular discontent in his article, ‘Inquiry into the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 16 (December 1812), 319–356. BACK

[11] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 10 September 1816, Letter 2839. Southey had urged action against the radical press, but had declined the suggestion that he edit a pro-government journal. BACK

[12] General Sir William Henry Clinton (1769–1846; DNB), commander of the 1st Division in Spain 1812–1813 and Commander-in-Chief in Eastern Spain 1813–1814. For Southey’s acceptance of the offer see his letter to John Baker Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield, 8 May 1817, Letter 2990. Southey hoped this material would help with his History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[13] Marshal General Jean-de-Dieu Soult (1769–1851) commanded French forces at the Battle of Toulouse, 10 April 1814, inflicting heavy casualties on the allied British, Spanish and Portuguese troops of Wellington. Soult had intended to hold Toulouse just long enough to detain Wellington’s army, then to evacuate the city and join forces with the army of Louis Gabriel Suchet (1770–1826). Although he succeeded in escaping from the city with his army on 11 April, the difficult terrain and the armistice that ended the war prevented his uniting with Suchet. BACK

[14] Southey’s nickname for the Hills’ children. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Netherhall (mentioned 1 time)