1815. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 10 October 1810

1815. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 10 October 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Oct 10. 1810

I believe I told you that a certain xxxx Mr Kinder had offered to lend me a MS account of the native tribes xxx of Paraguay, [1]  & the MS Argentina, which latter book will probably supply many additions to my first volume, for I have often wished for it. [2]  This same curmudgeon (according to Dr Ash’s [3]  explanation of the word) tells me to day that he has a Brazil grammar by P Luis Figueira, the 4th edition – printed at Lisbon so lately as 1795. [4]  no doubt the impression went to Brazil & on that account neither you or I ever met with it, or even heard of its existence. I shall gut his copy, to make sure of it, but I will get William May [5]  to look after one for me.

You will not see me till the spring, when it will better suit both my finances & engagements to move. I have purchased the share in the Register, [6]  – which has taken up the only disposable sum I ever yet was master of. It gives me however a capital of 209£ – producing an annuity of 80£ – so long as this work maintains its sale, – & as that depends mostly upon myself I know what there is to rely upon. I have got on about a quarter part of the second volume, & having a good deal the start of the printers, & probably of xx the other workmen, have laid it aside to take another spell at Raphael de Jesus [7]  & Nieuhoff. [8]  In all likelihood I shall be able to go to press <(with the Brazil)> about this time twelvemonth [9]  – my history of the mother country [10]  is in such a state, that as soon as the Brazil is compleated the printer may begin upon that. I shall require only about a months work to get on with N revision & transcript, the first copy being compleat to the death of Joam 3. [11]  besides which I have the chapter ready from Sebastians loss to the completion of the usurpation, [12]  – the whole period of which Conestaggio treats. [13]  There is little short of two volumes in this state, – & an equal portion of the Asiatic history has also been written for some years. You see therefore that I am in great forwardness. The mother country will make the most amusing work of the series, the materials are so interesting, & the documents so good that I expect to produce a work more popular as well as more truly philosophical than any which has preceded it.

Oh these villainous fidalgos! my faith in the recovery & regeneration of the peninsula continues unshaken, – but I wish there were the same symptoms of political improvement in Portugal as in Spain. It will come, – only it comes too slowly. Setaro & Lopes I suppose are of this party to Angola. [14]  Verdier [15]  May tells me, was sent out of the country a year ago. When I was at Thomar he considered invasion as a bugbear, & relied upon the Zezere for the safety of Lisbon.

Have you ever met Sharon Turner at Rickmans? His appearance is against him, but I have seldom known any man whose mind xxxx is so well regulated. never a better man, & never one who had put out his talents to such good account.

There will be little of mine in the next Quarterly. I have however a good deal in hand for it, – especially an exposure of the ignorance, dishonesty & impudence of the Barristers Hints to the Legislature concerning the Methodists. [16]  This man has had a triumphant career for about two years, & he will be not a little surprized at feeling himself suddenly checkt & thrown out of his seat.

You sent over a continuation of San Felippe’s Memoirs, [17]  numbered volumes 3 & 4, as if the Memorias made the two first volumes of the edition. Unluckily the folio copy of S Felippe which I have here contains only half the work.

Have you ever received the remaining sheets of Kehama? [18]  I am very sorry that my Aunt must on this occasion accept the will for the deed for it is not my fault that they were not regular sent as they were struck off. The concluding proofs reached me about three weeks ago, & the book will make its appearance early in November. It will be Longmans fault if you do not see it at Streatham as soon as it is advertised.

God bless you –



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham./ Surry
Postmarks: E/ 13 OC 13/ 1810; 10 o’Clock/ OC 13/ 1810
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p,
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The merchant Thomas Kinder (c.1781–1846) had spent some time in South America. Kinder lent Southey ‘a volume of Noticias del Paraguay … in manuscript’, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, p. [v]. BACK

[2] Kinder also lent Southey a manuscript of Ruy Diaz de Guzman (1558–1629), La Argentina, y Historia de las Descubrimento de las Provinicas de la Rio de la Plata (1612). (This was copied by Tom Southey; see no. 3836 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library.) Southey wanted La Argentina for his History of Brazil. BACK

[3] The lexicographer and grammarian John Ash (1724–1779; DNB). His New and Complete Dictionary of the English Language (1775) defined a curmudgeon as ‘a close-fisted miserly fellow’. BACK

[4] Luis Figueira (1573–1643), Arte da Grammatice do Lingua Brasilica (1621). Southey later acquired an edition of 1687, no. 3396 in the sale catalogue of his library. The edition of 1795 was edited by Jose Mariano da Conceicao Velloso (1742–1811). BACK

[5] William Henry May (1785–1849), John May’s youngest brother and business partner in Brazil. BACK

[6] The Edinburgh Annual Register. BACK

[7] Raphael de Jesus (1614–1693), Castrioto Lusitano (1679), no. 3621 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] Johan Nieuhof (1618–1672) Gedenkweerdige Brasiliaense Zee-en-Lant-Reise (1693). Southey’s copy was no. 1934 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[9] The second volume of the History of Brazil did not appear until 1817. BACK

[10] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’ was never completed. BACK

[11] John III (1502–1557; King of Portugal 1521–1557). BACK

[12] Sebastian I (1554–1578; King of Portugal 1557–1578). He was presumed killed at the Battle of Alcácer Quibir (Battle of the Three Kings), though his corpse was not found, giving rise to the legend that he would return again at the nation’s hour of greatest need. His dynasty died out in 1580 and the throne was inherited by Philip II (1527–1598; King of Spain 1556–1598), the ‘usurpation’ of Southey’s letter. BACK

[13] Girolamo Franchi Conestaggio (1530–1616/1618?), Dell’ Unione del Portogallo alla Corona di Castiglia (1585), which covers the period 1578–1580. BACK

[14] An obscure reference. Southey is talking about defeatist and incompetent Portuguese leaders. A civilian called Setaro had certainly failed to provision adequately British troops in Portugal in 1809. BACK

[15] Timoteo Lecussan Verdier (1754–1831), Portuguese man of letters and mill-owner, he was of French parentage. Southey had met him in 1801 during his second visit to Portugal. BACK

[16] Southey’s review of Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. The author was James Sedgwick (1775–1851; DNB). Southey pointed out the scurrilous nature of his criticisms of the Methodists and the intolerance of his proposal to withdraw Methodists’ preaching licences. BACK

[17] Vicente Bacallar y Sanna, Marques de San Felipe (1669–1726), Sardinian nobleman and author of Commentarios de la Guerra de Espana (1726), a history of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1713). Southey’s two copies were nos 3231 (from Herbert Hill) and 3311 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[18] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

People mentioned

Turner, Sharon (1768–1847) (mentioned 1 time)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Catherine (1775–1848) (mentioned 1 time)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)