2061. Robert Southey to John Murray, 15 March 1812

2061. Robert Southey to John Murray, 15 March 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. March 15. 1812.

My dear Sir

I have slept upon Turners opinion, because I knew not immediately what to say about it. [1]  Perhaps the better way will be to tell the Author that another publisher is afraid of the book, – that you have taken the legal opinion of a person in whom you have entire confidence, – that many booksellers would probably <perhaps> t venture to publish it, but probably none of the more respectable ones, – & that the best way will be for the Author to take one of those opinions which he formerly proposed, & be guided by it, – or as a thing of less formality to let any legal friend of his own mark such passages as he would recommend to be expunged.

Some of the parts which I noticed as probably indictable remain unaltered in the copy which you last sent me – that respecting the nonpayment of taxes in the dedication, [2]  – & that concerning Ld Riversdale. [3]  The general nature of the book is such that <it> is not likely to be prosecuted, still I think a writer acts very imprudently who renders himself liable to prosecution without any occasion & for no imaginable good. It is a book of extraordinary talent, so full of original thoughts felicitously expressed that I should grieve if it were suppressed, – but I should be far more grieved if L. involved himself by it in vexations which it was quite unnecessary to provoke. The good or evil which it would do is pretty small balanced, – for the author is as often right as he is wrong, – & almost as almost often wrong as he is right; supposing therefore that it would leave the opinions of men pretty much as it found them, the originality & talent which it displays would be so much clear gain to the public in the way of intellectual pleasure.

Yrs very truly

R Southey.


* Address: To/ Mr Murray/ Fleet Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 18 MA 18/ 1812
Watermark: IPING/ 1806
Endorsement: 1812 Mar 15/Southey R
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42550. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Turner had been consulted over the advisability of Murray’s publishing Landor’s Commentary on Memoirs of Mr Fox; see Southey to John Murray, 7 March 1812, Letter 2055. Although the Commentary was printed, Murray eventually suppressed it, refusing to publish a book that attacked the Tory government and was dedicated to James Madison (1751–1836), President of the United States (1809–1817), with whom Britain was about to go to war. BACK

[2] Charles James Fox. A Commentary on His Life and Character, ed. Stephen Wheeler (London, 1907), p. 7, suggested the British people could force the government to change its policies by refusing to pay taxes. BACK

[3] William Tonson, 2nd Lord Riversdale (1775–1848). His father, William Tonson, 1st Lord Riversdale (1724–1787), was born William Hull and was probably the illegitimate son of the substantial Irish landowner, Robert Tonson (1695–1773). Landor had referred to the 1st Lord Riversdale as ‘the bastard of a scullion’; Charles James Fox. A Commentary on His Life and Character, ed. Stephen Wheeler (London, 1907), p. 90. BACK

People mentioned

Turner, Sharon (1768–1847) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)