3513. Robert Southey to Messrs Longman and Co., 26 July 1820

3513. Robert Southey to Messrs Longman and Co., 26 July 1820⁠* 

Keswick, July 26. 1820.

Dear Sir

This proposed work of Mr. James Henderson [1]  is the book which I mentioned to you when I was last in Paternoster Row. The author says, in his proposals, that “little authentic intelligence (concerning Brazil) has hitherto been published, and the accounts we have of its discovery, colonization, divisions, government, productions, are vague, and frequently contradictory.” He therefore promises to give “a genuine and well-authenticated history from original documents.” Now, if when he wrote these proposals he knew nothing of my work, it is plain that he must have known little of what has been written concerning Brazil, and lived little with persons who take any interest concerning its history. If he did know of my history, or if, knowing it as he now does, he continues to circulate the same proposals, the language which it contains is exactly that which a plagiarist would use who meant to make up his own book by pillaging mine. These remarks only affect the respectability of the author; but as for his works interfering with mine, it can do so no more than an abridgment would do, which any man has a right to make (as the law stands), and which I have no doubt this will prove to be in the whole historical part. In fact, there is no other connected history of Brazil than mine, either printed or in manuscript, and without the assistance which he can derive from mine, and mine only, he might as well pretend to write a history of the moon. [2] 

There can be no reason why Mr. Clarkson should not be applied to for any books which he may have it in his power to lend me, being, as I am, upon familiar and friendly terms with him. [3]  I believe I told you that I have the second edition of “Sewell.” [4]  The current one of G. Fox’s “Journal” (I apprehend there is always one on sale) will answer my purposes to go on with, only I must compare it with the first [5]  before the work is completed, and with this and Gough [6]  I can begin.

Yours, &c.,



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856)
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 201–202. BACK

[1] James Henderson (c. 1783–1848), History of Brazil (1821). He had sailed to South America in 1819 and was Consul-General in Columbia 1823–1836. BACK

[2] Southey had good grounds for his fears. Alphonse de Beauchamp (1769–1832), Histoire du Brésil (1815), had plagiarised from the first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819); see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 October 1815, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 2659. However, on this occasion his concerns had no foundation. Henderson’s volume did draw on Manoel Aires de Casal (1754–1821), Corografia Brazilica, ou Relação Historico-Geografica do Reino do Brazil (1817) and O Patriota, Jornal Litterario, Politico, Mercantil &c do Rio de Janeiro (1813–1814), but it was not a work of plagiarism and offered an ‘account’ of Brazil rather than a ‘history’; see Southey to Herbert Hill, 8 December 1821, Letter 3755. Moreover, Henderson’s introductory ‘Notice to the Reader’ drew attention to Southey’s History, which ‘does as much honour to the talent of that gentleman as to his unwearied research’, Henderson, History of Brazil (London, 1821), p. vi. Henderson sent Southey a copy of his volume, presumably the same as that listed as no. 1182 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Southey was looking for materials for his proposed life of George Fox (1624–1691; DNB), founder of the Society of Friends. This work was never written. BACK

[4] Willem Sewel (1653–1720; DNB), The History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the Christian People Called Quakers (1722); a second edition appeared in 1725. Southey eventually owned two copies of Sewel, nos 2639–2640 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] Thomas Ellwood (1639–1714; DNB) edited A Journal or Historical Account of the Life, Travel, Sufferings, and Christian Experiences of that Ancient, Eminent and Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ, George Fox (1694). BACK

[6] John Gough (1720–1791; DNB), A History of the People Called Quakers from their First Rise to the Present Time (1789–1790). BACK

People mentioned

Clarkson, Thomas (1760–1846) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)