3429. Robert Southey to John Murray, 1 February 1820

3429. Robert Southey to John Murray, 1 February 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 1 Feby. 1820.

My dear Sir

Thank you for your parcel, which has reached me this afternoon. The last portion of Marlborough [1]  should have reached you in the middle of last week. – You mention Burchardt [2]  in your note, but it is not in the parcel.

I have made a good beginning of a little book upon the dangers of the times & the prospects of society, – & as my thoughts would not have been so much occupied upon this subject, if they had not been directed that way by the Q. R. you have a right to the publication. [3]  The form upon which I have fixed is that of a dialogue between the author & the spirit of Sir Thomas More, [4]  – or rather a series of dialogues, in which a parallel between the present age & that of the Reformation is drawn, as two grand climactericks of society. Under this form I can advance more than I should chuse to make myself responsible for, without occasion. I shall bring together a great some curious historical matter, & relieve the subject by interspersing a few pieces of poetry, (as Boethius has done, from whom indeed the conception of the book was taken) [5]  & by some local descriptions so managed as to be introductory of the dialogue. And it may be worth while to give the volume an attractive appearance by a few views, which Wm Westall may make when he comes next into this country. [6]  I have very little doubt that it will excite considerable attention, & lead many persons into a wholesome train of thought. The first dialogue in which the Ghost introduces himself is finished much to my satisfaction; [7]  & I shall take great pains with the composition of the whole, – for there is scarcely any form of composition which requires so much care as the dialogue. When I come to town, which will be in the course of five or six weeks, I must endeavour to borrow Sir T. More’s works from some blackletter libr collector. [8]  I have only his Utopia, [9]  & his life in Dr Wordsworths Ecclesiastical Biography. [10] 

My main employment at this time is in finishing Wesley, [11]  which I shall have compleated in little more than a fortnight, – & in filling up the paper upon the New Churches for your number after the next. [12]  The old books which you collected for me have been of the greatest service, & I have also obtained some curious papers connected with this subject from the Bishop of London. As soon as these two things are done I think of setting my face towards London. And immediately on my return I begin the peninsular campaign. [13] 

You had better send me Cromwells Memoirs, – there can be no better subject for a biographical article. [14]  And with it Nobles Memoirs of the Regicides, [15]  – I have his Memoirs of the Cromwell family, [16]  & I have also the Cromwelliana, [17]  & Harris, [18]  & I believe most, if not all, the important books connected with his history.

The translation of Dobrizhoffer is nearly finished in such forwardness that it may go to press as soon as you please. [19] 

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

–– I have just received the Gazette! [20] 


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqre/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ FE 4/ 820
Seal: [partial] black wax; lower part of raised arm
Watermark: GW/ 1816
Endorsement: R Southey Esq/ Feb 1. 1820
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42552. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Samuel Smiles, A Publisher and His Friends. Memoir and Correspondence of the Late John Murray, with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768–1843, 2 vols (London, 1891), II, pp. 108–109 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s review of William Coxe, Memoirs of John Duke of Marlborough, with his Original Correspondence; Collected from the Family Records at Blenheim, and Other Authentic Sources. Illustrated with Portraits, Maps, and Military Plans (1818–1819), Quarterly Review, 23 (May 1820), 1–73. BACK

[2] The Swiss traveller and orientalist, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (1784–1817). Murray had published his Travels in Nubia (1819) on behalf of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa. BACK

[3] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829), published by Murray. BACK

[4] Sir Thomas More (1478–1535; DNB), Lord Chancellor 1529–1532 and opponent of the Reformation. BACK

[5] Southey’s model was Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 480–525), De Consolatione Philosophiae, a dialogue between the author and the character of Lady Philosophy, consisting of both prose and verse. BACK

[6] Sir Thomas More (1829) contained a frontispiece of More and six engravings of scenes in the Lake District taken from drawings by Westall. BACK

[7] An early version of ‘Colloquy I’, Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols (London, 1829), I, pp. [1]–21. BACK

[8] Southey approached his friend and fellow bibliophile Heber and managed to borrow some of the required books from him; see Southey to Richard Heber, 25 November 1820, Letter 3566. Southey later acquired More’s Opera Latina (1565), no. 1918 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[9] The sale catalogue of Southey’s library, no. 2001, indicates that he owned an edition of More’s Utopia published in Amsterdam in 1629. BACK

[10] An account of More’s life in Christopher Wordsworth, Ecclesiastical Biography: or, Lives of Eminent Men Connected with the History of Religion in England, 6 vols (London, 1810), II, pp. 53–232. Southey’s copy was no. 3041 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[11] The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[12] Southey’s review of Benjamin Haydon, New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818) and other volumes appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591. BACK

[13] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[14] Oliver Cromwell (c. 1742–1821; DNB), Memoirs of the Protector, Oliver Cromwell, and of His Sons, Richard and Henry. Illustrated by Original Letters, and Other Family Papers (1820). This book provided one of the occasions for Southey’s ‘Life of Cromwell’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 279–347. BACK

[15] Mark Noble (1754–1827; DNB), The Lives of the English Regicides, and Other Commissioners of the Pretended High Court of Justice, Appointed to Sit in Judgement Upon their Sovereign, King Charles the First (1798), later no. 2041 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[16] Mark Noble, Memoirs of the Protectoral House of Cromwell (1787), no. 2040 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[17] Cromwelliana; a Chronological Detail of Events in Which Oliver Cromwell Was Engaged, From the Year 1642 to His Death in 1658 (1810), no. 708 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[18] William Harris (1720–1770; DNB), Account of the Lives of James I and Charles I, Oliver Cromwell and Charles II (1814), no. 1286 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[19] Sara Coleridge’s An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay (1822). It was a translation of Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784). BACK

[20] George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB) had died on Saturday, 29 January 1820. His death was announced in an Extraordinary issue of the London Gazette on Sunday, 30 January 1820. A copy of this was sent to Southey by Bedford; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 February 1820, Letter 3438. BACK

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