2190. Robert Southey to James Ballantyne, 16 December 1812

2190. Robert Southey to James Ballantyne, 16 December 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec 16. 1812.

My dear Sir

About the Black Empire [1]  I entirely agree with you that it must not find place in the History, as we have not to cut our coat according to our cloth, – but our cloth according to our coat. There is no room for any work of supererogation. For such works the second volume would be a very fit place, & in those volumes I should be very well disposed to give a series of papers upon the great changes which are going on in the different parts of the world, – their operating causes, & their probable results. The Black Empire, – Serra Leona, – Spanish America, the United States, – New Holland, – &c – would furnish each materials for most interesting speculation & historical review. But I must curtail my projects, instead of extending them, – for my own historical works upon which so many years of labour have been bestowed, & on which I am fully sensible my future reputation will rest, are standing still. I have promised to prepare a Memoir of Mr Walpoles Life, our envoy for above thirty years at Lisbon: [2]  & this will be all I can do for the second volume. I have the whole of his correspondence here, & tremble at the sight of it. However I must have perused it for another purpose. This Memoir will include some interesting matter about Portugal, & will certainly have the effect of selling some copies of the book.

Longman told me when I was last in town, & all his partners confirmed the opinion, that the sale of the Register would not be diminished a single copy in England by raising the price. I merely tell you this – because if you have no fears in Scotland, & they have none in England, I do not see what there is to fear. My own opinion of course is of no weight, as I can have nothing but mere opinion to go by.

The whole remainder of the Chronicle [3]  will be sent this week, & the Gazettes [4]  also, tho these I think might well be omitted.

I shall be obliged to your brother to send me £50 as soon as may be convenient, & should likewise thank him to make his bill of a shorter date. It is difficult to negociate bills at three months here.

believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

Pray tell your friend Mr Thompson [5]  that his songs lie upon my conscience like a night-mair, & yet I cannot throw them off. He would hardly believe me if I were to tell him that I would rather undertake to write a poem of three thousand lines than a song of thirty.


* Address: To/ Mr James Ballantyne/ Printer/ Edinburgh
Stamped: KESWICK/298
Postmark: DEC/ B 18 M/ 1812
Endorsement: December 16, 1812./ Robert Southey Esq-/ Reg – &–
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 849. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had suggested a section on Haiti in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813). It was a ‘Black Empire’ because part of it was ruled by Henri I (1767–1820; King of Haiti 1811–1820). Haiti was only briefly mentioned in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 192–196. BACK

[2] Robert Walpole (1736–1810), Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal, 1771–1800. Southey’s ‘Memoir’ was not written. BACK

[3] ‘Chronicle, containing brief Accounts of the various Public Occurrences of the Year’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 1–233. BACK

[4] ‘Appendix, consisting of British and Foreign State Papers’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 234–353. BACK

[5] George Thomson (1757–1851; DNB), music collector and publisher. He had asked Southey to write the lyrics for some songs; see Southey to Tom Southey, 28 August 1812, Letter 2140. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)