1846. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 28 December 1810

1846. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 28 December 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 28. 1810.

I have got half a dozen books from a Catalogue of which Wynn sent me a frank full containing all the Sp. & P. articles. Ordenanzas de Marina para los Navios de las Philipinas que hacen viages al R. de la N España in otro destino – a book with no date of place but apparently printed at Manilla, & with two charts [1]  Arte de Navigar del Rodrigo Camorano, Cosmografi y Peloto Mayor. 1588. [2]  Imperio de la China & cultura Evangelica en el por los Rel. de la Comp. por el D. Alvaro Semmedo publicado por M. de Faria y Sousa [3]  – Gentio de Angola sufficientemente instrucdo nos mysterios de nossa St fe. 1642. [4]  Esperança de Israel – a treatise by Menasseh Ben Israel, – containing an account of a Jewish El-Dorado in S. America, [5]  – which I had seen in one of R. B’s (Burton’s) little books, [6]  & a few other facts bearing upon Brazil & Portugal. Lastly, a book which the former possessor has very properly lettered Figmente Annii Viterbensis, [7]  containing the whole of his forgeries with his commentary thereon. Antwerpiæ. 1545. [8]  – I have long been on the look out for this, which is necessary for the sketch of the fabulous history of Portugal.

A larger cargo from a Bristol catalogue is on the road.

Longman has sent me a Political Essay on the Kingdom of Peru (so entitled in imitation of Humboldt) [9]  by Walton who has lately published a bad book upon the Sp. Colonies. [10]  He has got materials, but is neither well read in any thing, nor has he judgement enough to put together what information he possesses in a tolerable shape. I wish his MS. was printed, & yet I think it will not pay for publication. Longman possibly suspects this, or after having published one work for him, he would not have referred this to me for an opinion. About three parts of it are taken from the Lima Almanachs, – a collection of which Murray lent me, [11]  the author has got at some documents of later date, – very probably published in the same manner, – & from <with> these, one or two ill-digested essays, Sobrevielas [12]  map from the Mer. Peruano, one or two prints from Spanish books & a few wretched drawings he has made up his ‘Political Essay upon the Kingdom of Peru,’ – borrowing his title from Humboldt.

I had a letter the other day from Longman telling me (in perfect confidence was his phrase) that “some perfectly independent country gentlemen of good political information & whose views were in every respect pure & free from party” were about to undertake a new review, [13]  which they had applied to him to publish “the laziness, the occupations, or the partial knowledge of the gentlemen & gratuitous writers would render essential the support of a sterling literary character” – & he should prefer me to any other man, – if I would regularly or occasionally assist him, at the ten guineas per sheet price. – I told him that I did not think a neutral review (supposing un-party profession were to be believed) – would succeed; – that both the Edinburgh & the Quarterly found it necessary to set out with excluding all gratuitous matter, – & necessarily paid 20 guineas per sheet, – which price I had received for the reviewal of the life of Nelson; [14]  – that having been engaged with the Quarterly from its commencement, I could not with propriety withdraw from it, – & that it was impossible to spare time for writing for another. – In fact if there were no other objection, I should never consent to bear the burthen of such a work upon my shoulders, (which is clearly what is wanted here) while the power & the management were vested in others. I suppose they thought their politics would tempt me, – but I am not intolerant in these matters, & the Pitt-idolatry [15]  of Gifford & Canning is of no consequence to me. I care little for any temporary politics except the xxxxxxx <point> of standing by the Spaniards, & carrying on the war with Buonaparte xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx; there is nothing else which is worth a thought now or can excite any interest hereafter.

You will see an Article of mine upon Methodism in the next Quarterly, in which I have hinted at the propriety of borrowing some parts of the Methodist system, in a manner that might easily & unexceptionably be done. [16]  – I shall soon make a deadly blow at Malthus, whose book I consider as both in its principle & its tendency one of the most detestable that ever was written. [17]  Rickman tells me that its details are as erroneous as its deductions & will supply me with detections for that portion of the work. I expect to produce something that will give the Quarterly a considerable lift, for this is a subject of which I feel myself thoroughly master. [18] 

If you wish to give away any copies of Kehama [19]  let Longman place them to the account of the publication. How is my young cousin & his mother? We have had a general sickness thro the whole of the children, – an influenza, – accompanied in Herbert with a return of the croupe, – but this does not alarm us now, – the return of the complaint being always in a mitigated form, – & indeed I am disposed to think (in opposition to our medical assistant who is a very skillful practitioner) that the croupe which we have in this valley, resembles that of the Shetlands rather than that of the South of England, & is in fact a much less dangerous disease.

Many happy returns of the season to you & my Aunt.

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [illegible]
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] . Ordenanzas de Marina para los Navios del Rey de las Islas Philipinas, que en Guerra y con Reales Permissos hacen Viages al Reyno de la N. España In Otro Destino del Real Servicio (1757); no. 3603 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[2] The cosmographer Rodrigo Çamorano’s (1542–1623) Compendio del Arte de Navigar (1588); no. 3243 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Alvaro Semmedo (1585/6–1658), Imperio de la China (1642); no. 3686 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] Francesco Paccoino (d. 1641), Gentio de Angola (1645); no. 3440 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Manasseh ben Israel (1604–1657), Esperance de Israel (n.d.); no. 3177 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] ‘Robert Burton’ and ‘R.B’ were pseudonyms used by the bookseller and writer Nathaniel Crouch (c. 1640–1725?; DNB). They were chosen in reference to Robert Burton (1577–1640; DNB), author of the Anatomy of Melancholy (1620), which incorporated hundreds of translations from Latin and Greek sources, thus making classical knowledge more widely available to the less privileged classes. Crouch was equally keen to democratise learning, producing simplified versions of more learned works and histories and publishing these cheaply, thus ensuring a wide circulation. BACK

[7] ‘An invention of Annius Viterbus’. Annius of Viterbo was the pseudonym of Giovanni Nanni (1432/1437–1502). He gained notoriety through his Commentaria Super Opera Diversorum Auctorum de Antiquitatibus Loquentium (1506), a revisionist account of European history. It purported to have discovered a series of ‘lost’ authors, including Chaldaeus Berosus (a historian, astrologer and philosopher). A series of commentaries by Annius linked these ‘new’ writings to actual biblical and classical authorities. In fact, they were fakes. For the impact of Annius’s forgeries on European thought in the early Renaissance and later see Walter Stephens, ‘When Pope Noah Ruled the Etruscans: Annius of Viterbo and his Forged Antiquities’, Modern Language Notes, 119.1 (January 2004), 201–223. BACK

[8] The pseudo-Chaldaeus Berosus, Antiquitatum Italiae ac Totius Orbis Libri Quinque (1545); no. 274 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. This purported to be by the Chaldean historian, but was in fact a forgery. BACK

[9] i.e. to imitate Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, an English translation of which was published by Longman in 1811. BACK

[10] William Walton (1783/4–1857; DNB). He had been junior secretary to the British expedition which captured Santo Domingo from the French in 1802, and had remained there as British agent. He returned to England in 1809 and developed a career as a political journalist, arguing against ministerial policies towards Spain and Portugal. His writings included Present State of the Spanish Colonies; Including a Particular Report of Hispaniola, or the Spanish Part of Santo Domingo (1810). His ‘Political Essay’ on Peru was not published, but some of its ideas were probably incorporated into his An Exposé of the Dissentions of Spanish America (1814). BACK

[11] ‘Descripcion de las Provincias Pertenecientes al Arzobispado di Lima’; no. 3645 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, inscribed in his hand: ‘This book of which perhaps a duplicate is nowhere to be found, was given me by Mr Murray; it contains the fullest account which has yet been published on the old Vice-royalty of Peru, province by province. The information was obtained from the respective Corregidores, and printed for many successive years in the Lima Almanack, from whence some curioso cut out the whole collection, and formed them into this most valuable volume’. BACK

[12] The Spanish Franciscan missionary Manuel Sobreviela (fl. 1783–1803). His ‘Mapa de las Misones del Peru’ was published in the Mercurio Peruano, 81 (13 October 1791). BACK

[13] The British Review and London Critical Journal (1811–1825). Southey did not contribute. BACK

[14] Southey’s review of John Charnock (1756–1806; DNB), Biographical Memoirs of Lord Viscount Nelson, &c., &c., &c.; with Observations, Critical and Explanatory (1806); James Harrison (d. 1847), The Life of Lord Nelson (1806); T. O. Churchill (fl. 1800–1823), The Life of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronté, &c (1808); and James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts (1809), see Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. It was later expanded into a full-scale Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[15] Gifford and Canning were both admirers of William Pitt (1759–1806; Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806; DNB), while Southey was an unsparing critic. 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. Southey recommended the circulation of popular histories of the English Reformation. This article appeared at the end of December 1810. BACK

[17] The political economist Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834; DNB). The ‘book’ was his Essay on the Principle of Population, first published in 1798, it had gone into four editions by 1807. BACK

[18] The first of a series of Southeyan articles on the poor appeared in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356, was intended as ‘an attack upon Malthus’, amongst others; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 5 January 1813, Letter 2199. BACK

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

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