3018. Robert Southey to Henry Koster, 26 August 1817

3018. Robert Southey to Henry Koster, 26 August 1817⁠* 

Keswick. 26 Aug. 1817.

My dear Koster

You will have learnt, no doubt, from Liverpool, [1]  that while you were expecting to hear from me and supposed me to be quietly pursuing my usual employments at home, I was far away upon the continent. I went abroad to see whether a total change of scene and circumstance would wean me from recollections which time seemed rather to strengthen than to abate. [2] Nash and Senhouse (of whom you may have heard us speak) were my companions. Our route was from Calais to Paris, Dijon, Besançon, Pontarlier, Neufchatel, Lausanne, Geneva, and M. Cenis to Turin and Milan. The Lakes Como, Lugano and Maggiori back into Switzerland by the Simplon – Friburg, Bern, the Bernese Alps, Lucerne, the wood cantons, Zurich, Schaffhausen, Donauschingen through the Black Forest to Friburg in the Brisgau, Kehl, Strasbourg back over the Rhine to Bedch, Rastadt, Heidelberg, Manheim, Frankfort, Maintz, Coblentz – Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle and so home by Brussels, Lisle and St. Omer: A tour of about 3,000 miles, which we accomplished in thirteen weeks without any delay, accident, or unpleasant circumstances of any kind.

During this whole time I saw no English newspapers after the first week; and it was from the Lugano gazette [3]  (the oracle of the North of Italy) that I first learnt of the insurrection of Pernambuco. [4]  – Your letter of 24. Febr. reached me just as I was leaving town for the journey. That of the 21st of June I received on Thursday last, three days after my return. I enclosed the papers by the next nights post to the Bishop of London, who would receive them yesterday, if he were at Fulham. [5]  The fourth copy of my second volume [6]  was designed for your father.

It is not my fault that the reviewal of your book did not appear three months earlier. [7]  It was written as soon as the book appeared and printed immediately. Anything further did not depend upon me. I was glad to hear that about ten copies only of the quarto were left, and that an octavo edition was ready for publication. [8]  Here is good encouragement for you, if you needed any.

I have sent my third volume to the press [9]  and am hard at work upon it. During my absence the Santuario Mariano arrived for me from Lisbon. – a book which I had been soliciting in vain for several years. [10]  The last two volumes contain a good deal of Brazilian history, most of which (indeed almost all) has arrived too late for my present edition, – and whether I shall ever live to see a second is doubtful – or more than doubtful. [11]  However I shall leave the work as compleat as I can make it. In the Santuario (a book the title of which shows of what rubbish it is composed, – being an account of all the Images of N. Senhora in Portugal and the Conquests in ten volumes!) – I find mention of a history of Brazil by P. F. Vicent de Salvador. [12]  It is referred to apparently as if it were printed; but I have nowhere else heard of such an author. Can you learn anything of him? It cannot be a mistake for F. Manoel de Salvador and the Valeroso Lucedeno, [13]  – that is certain.

Perhaps you may still be able to inform me what in the opinion of the Brazilians themselves are the advantages which Brazil has derived from the expulsion of the Jesuits. [14]  My former volumes must vent unequivocal testimony to the impartiality with which I regard the Jesuits. I am not aware of any possible motives which could influence my judgement either for or against them and I cannot but consider the expulsion to have been founded upon false accusations and in every way impolitic as well as abominably unjust. – But you will wish to hear a little English news and English gossip, rather than to have me talking across the Atlantic upon the old subject.

Mrs. Vardon is – lying in at Tournay. This I am sure is news which will surprize you, and I think an attestation of the fact ought to be sent to Spa – as an enducement to others to step in St. Remacles footstep. [15]  We crost with her to Calais and had no suspicion of her pregnancy. At Calais we parted with her, and when we reached Brussels on our return found her apparently very near the time of her confinement. She was going to England with George [16]  who was to be placed at the military Academy at Sandhurst, and could not be admitted unless he appeared there the second Tuesday in August. Mr. V. could not go with him being detained at Brussels with Martin [17]  in consequence of an unlucky affair which I will presently explain. So she was right glad to join company with us, and set off half a day before us, that we who travelled faster might come up with her the next night at Lisle. We found her at Tournay, afraid to proceed and thence left her, the Doctor having pronounced rest necessary and given hopes that after a few days she might continue her journey. Her house in Hanover Square was ready and she did not expect the young Remacle to appear before the middle of October. We took George on with us and left her with Tom, Miss V. and Mary. [18]  Tidings however have arrived that she has been brought to bed there.

Martins affair is briefly thus. Bows and arrows had been forbidden at the school, very properly, as the arrows were pointed with needles. Martin borrowed one from one boy to make a shot with it, and desired another of his schoolfellows to hold his book before his face that he might shoot at him (their common mode of play.) The boy lowered the book at the moment that the arrow was on the way, and it entered the corner of his eye. A cataract was coming on in this eye,– this produced inflammation and ended in the loss of the eye. And for this the parents have been wicked enough to prosecute Martin criminally! The cause had been discussed in two courts, and by the last accounts it to be carried to a third!

Thus much for the Vardons who have made a miserable business of educating their boys abroad. Tom [19]  is very much worsened, Dutch education having in great measure undone what Westminster had effected. – Nash is in high feather, and is coming to take lodgings at Keswick. So is Bedford – and the Rickmans [20]  are on their way to visit us. September therefore if the weather shall permit will be a month of compleat dissipation. Westall is lodging at the bottom of the garden. The house and property have been sold by auction. I was a bidder (by proxy) during my absence, and have not been well used about it. However my new landlord [21]  a silversmith in Cockspur Street, and a Borrowdale man by birth, talks civilly and promises largely. All here is well, and I have about 250 volumes on the way from Milan and Brussels, – including the Acta Sanctorum, which I have at last seen paid for. [22]  Verbeyst [23]  was delighted to see me, and even paid me a visit at the Hotel. I saw Grumpy, Henri, and the other coachman, all of whom were rejoiced to see me again. We called on M. Ouwerx at Huy, [24]  – and we slept at Sombref, renewing our acquaintances everywhere.

As for English politics you are probably as well informed of the event of the last four months as I am, who have picked up my only knowledge from French, Italian and German papers. You will have seen my papers in the Quarterly, [25]  – they have not been without effect, – and as for the uproar which a set of cut-throats raised against me in consequence, you know me well enough to understand how perfectly invulnerable I am to all such attacks, and how indifferent to abuse. There is no copy here of my letter to Wm. Smith, [26]  or I would inclose it, – however I will send one with my next publication, whatever that may be, – most likely it will be the Tale of Paraguay. [27]  I am at present more hated than any man living by the Buonapartists and the anarchists, – they are biting at my heel, and I set my foot upon their necks. [28] 

I saw Mr. Wilberforce and talked with him about you. When I write to him I shall tell him about the Chaplainship but not as requesting him to interfere in the choice, – then would be an impropriety in this which you will easily perceive. I made him perfectly understand why the history of the Abolition was more wanted in Brazil than any argument upon the question; and I have little doubt but that the society will print you chuse to supply. [29]  The work of abridgement you will find very easy. All here desire their love.

God bless you.

Yrs affectionately.


* MS: Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro; text taken from Sousa-Leão
Previously published: Joaquim de Sousa-Leão, ‘Cartas de Robert Southey a Theodore Koster e Henry Koster, anos de 1804 a 1819’, Revista do Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, 178 (1943), 50–53. BACK

[1] From Koster’s father, John Theodore Koster, who lived at Birkenhead Priory. BACK

[2] A reference to Southey’s grief over the death of his son Herbert, on 17 April 1816. BACK

[3] Gazzetta di Lugano (1814–1822), a weekly Swiss paper of liberal views. BACK

[4] An attempted revolution in the Brazilian province of Pernambuco March–May 1817. Koster was based in the area and was a witness to the events. BACK

[5] The Bishop’s palace was at Fulham. At Koster’s instigation, the British expatriate community in Pernambuco had sent Southey a letter requesting his help in securing for them a chaplain, rather than directly approaching the church authorities. Discovering that responsibility for such appointments lay with the Bishop of London, Southey was attempting to help. BACK

[6] Presentation copies of the second volume of Southey’s History of Brazil, 3 vols (1810–1819). BACK

[7] Koster’s Travels in Brazil (1816). Southey reviewed this book in Quarterly Review, 16 (January 1817), 344–387. This issue did not appear until 20 May 1817. BACK

[8] The first edition of Travels in Brazil was a quarto. The second edition of 1817 was a two volume octavo. BACK

[9] Of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[10] Agostinho de Santa Maria (1642–1728), Santuario Mariano e Historia das Imagēs Milagrosas de Nossa Senhora (1707–1723), no. 3222 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[11] In 1822 a second edition of the first volume only of the History of Brazil (1810–1819) was published. BACK

[12] Vicente do Salvador (1564–c.1636), Historia do Brasil was written in the 1620s, but not published until 1888. BACK

[13] O Valeroso Lucideno e Triunfo da Liberdade na Restauração de Pernambuco (1648) was a pseudonymous work by Manuel Calado do Salvador (1584–1654), chronicling the war between the Portuguese and Dutch in Brazil in the 1630s and 1640s. It was much relied on by Southey in the second volume of his History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[14] The Jesuit order was expelled from Brazil in 1759 and from Paraguay in 1767. BACK

[15] In the Belgian town of Spa, women wishing to become pregnant put a foot into a footstep cut in stone and dedicated to St Remaclus (d. 673) – as Mrs Vardon had done when she visited the town with Southey and Koster on 8 October 1815. BACK

[16] George Tarbutt Vardon (b. 1803). He emigrated to Canada in 1832 and worked in the Indian Department. BACK

[17] Martin Vardon (dates unknown), the Vardons’ younger son. BACK

[18] The Vardons’ eldest daughter and their servant. BACK

[19] Thomas Vardon (1799–1867; DNB), Librarian of the House of Commons 1831–1867. BACK

[20] John and Susannah Rickman and their children: Anne (b. 1808); William Charles (1812–1886); and Frances (dates unknown). BACK

[21] Greta Hall was bought by Isaac Fisher (c. 1773–1819) a member of a Borrowdale farming family and a gold and silversmith in Cockspur Street, London. BACK

[22] Southey had bought in Brussels the massive, 53–volume compendium of hagiographies entitled Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[23] Jean-Baptiste Ver Beyst (1770–1849), a famous bookseller in Brussels. BACK

[24] Francois-Joseph Ouwerx (dates unknown) of Huys, a manufacturer of soap, whom Southey and Koster had met on their tour of the Low Countries on 5–6 October 1815. BACK

[25] Southey is probably referring in particular to ‘Parliamentary Reform’, Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 225–278, which provoked the attack on him in the House of Commons by William Smith on 14 March 1817. BACK

[26] Southey had responded to William Smith with A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. BACK

[27] A Tale of Paraguay (1825). BACK

[28] Joshua 10: 24: ‘Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them’. BACK

[29] Koster had argued the ‘Impolicy of the Slave Trade’ in his Travels in Brazil (London, 1816), pp. 445–456; and Southey had suggested that Koster should translate into Portuguese an abridgement of Clarkson’s History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament (1808). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)