3619. Robert Southey to John Murray, 28 January 1821

3619. Robert Southey to John Murray, 28 January 1821⁠* 

My dear Sir

There has been a mistake about Dobrizhoffer [1]  which vexes me greatly. You have plainly taken the copy in your hands for half the work, instead of a third, the original consisting of three volumes. There is but one remedy, – which is to cut the translation down by omitting all that can best be omitted. Send the MS. back to me, & I will see to this. The book will no longer have the same value as the original, but it will be lightened, & thereby better suited to the great majority of readers. The pruning knife must be used without mercy, so as to cut out, if possible a full third.

I did not know that Mr Frere had left England. [2]  There is no person from whom those proofs [3]  which I wished him to see could derive any of that advantage expected from him. Particular parts, which I will point out when we come to them, may be sent to particular persons who were either present at the actions described, or possess official knowledge of the transactions. Something no doubt will be gained by this on the score of accuracy; but what I wanted from Frere no other person can supply, – his individual knowledge of the leading men in Spain & of the views which they entertained. If my letter [4]  has been forwarded to him, I shall probably have a reply to it in time to be useful. He had promised for the last three or four years to send me papers, – this was put off from day to day, as a business that might be deferred, – writing a letter of recollections is a different thing, & more likely to be done.

True liberality, such as that in the reviewal of Wesley, must always command respect. [5]  If it were to be evidenced upon all subjects by the Q. R. for three or four numbers, as undeniably as in this instance, I verily believe that the influence of that Journal would be doubled. An opinion prevails, which I have taken some pains to combat, that whatever is praised in the E. R. [6]  is for that reason depreciated in the Q. R. This I could combat, because it is not true. But certainly there are some works which have been treated with a severity altogether unjustifiable, & exceedingly injurious to the review.

The B of the Church [7]  is in good progress, & you will have the first part when another chapter is finished. AB Sancrofts Life will be of use to me, & so will the life of John Owen which has been lately published, – Cromwells Dean of Ch. Church. [8]  The Book will make what is now called a sensation

Yrs very truly

R Southey

Keswick. 28 Jany. 1821.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqre/ Albemarle Street/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 31 JA 31/ 1821
Seal: [trace] red wax
Watermark: HAGAR & Co/ 1820
Endorsement: R Southey Esq/ Janry 1821
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42552. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Murray had agreed to publish 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), no. 843 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. The translation did eventually run to three volumes. BACK

[2] Frere’s public career had been ended when, as plenipotentiary in Spain, he had to share the blame for the disastrous outcome of the British army’s campaign in the Peninsular War in 1808–1809. In 1816 he married Elizabeth Jemima, Dowager Countess of Erroll (1771–1831), and in 1820 retired to Malta in an attempt to recover her health. BACK

[3] Proofs of the first volume of Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[4] Probably Southey to John Hookham Frere, 30 December 1820, Letter 3597. BACK

[5] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820) had been given an extensive and generally positive notice in the Quarterly Review, 24 (October 1820), [1]–55. The reviewer, Reginald Heber, observed that ‘few persons could have been found, we think, better qualified for the undertaking than Mr. Southey has shewn himself to be’ (9). BACK

[6] i.e. the Edinburgh Review, the leading Whig quarterly journal 1802–1929. BACK

[7] Southey’s The Book of the Church (1824). BACK

[8] Books on two seventeenth-century divines: George D’Oyly, The Life of William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury: Compiled Principally from Original and Scarce Documents (1820), a biography of William Sancroft (1617–1693; DNB), Archbishop of Canterbury 1678–1691; and William Orme (1787–1830; DNB), Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Religious Connexions of Dr. John Owen (1820), no. 2062 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. John Owen (1616–1683; DNB) had been appointed Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, 1651–1660, by Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; Lord Protector 1653–1658; DNB), in his role as Chancellor of the University of Oxford 1650–1657. BACK

People mentioned

Frere, John Hookham (1769–1846) (mentioned 2 times)
Heber, Reginald (1783–1826) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)