3745. Robert Southey to John Murray, 6 November 1821

3745. Robert Southey to John Murray, 6 November 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 6 Nov. 1821

My dear Sir

I thank you for D’Israeli’s note, & am well pleased to find that other opinions accord with that which he, in his abundant good nature, has been pleased to express. It is the first of my papers which has ever been printed without mutilation. One alteration only has been made to it. I had said that Hampden might have left a name scarcely inferior to that of Washington, & this has been altered to a memorable name. [1]  The meaning of the sentence is thus destroyed, for his name is memorable, but it is not, like Washingtons, deservedly held in reverence.

To enlarge this sketch into a popular history of Cromwells life might be a useful task, & would be a pleasant one. [2]  But it could not be done in less compass than the life of Nelson, [3]  & I could not make use of more of the sketch than was done in that instance. A moments reflection will convince you of this. I am willing to do it as soon as the Book of the Church [4]  is finished, – & this will go to the press when the review of Dobrizhoffer is off my hands. [5]  If you will offer me a price for it, according with my reputation, & with your character for liberality in such transactions, I shall be glad to accept it. Otherwise I will share the eventual profits. – Provision for my family there will be, whenever I may be removed to a better world; my copy-rights, my papers, & a life insurance [6]  will secure this; but it is time that I should make some provision for declining years.

The two Articles which I like best in your last number are those upon Martyn, [7]  & upon Hones villainous publication. [8]  That T upon Hunts Tasso, is like every paper you have ever had upon Italian literature, shallow & superficial, written with little knowledge & less judgement. [9]  Barrow’s papers are, as they always are, valuable. [10]  He will not indeed believe in cannibals till he gets eaten himself, [11]  & I wish he had not spoken with gratuitous incivility of Miss Williams, in a case too where censure was neither provoked nor deserved. [12]  His African articles have from time to time prevented me from giving you one upon the Portugueze settlements, & that intermediate country concerning which he is not accurate in saying that the “Faithful nation” [13]  have suffered no information to transpire. [14]  If I live to bring out my own history of Portugal, – (it will go to press immediately when that of the War is concluded) [15]  – I am very much deceived if there will not appear finer examples of heroic virtue in that Faithful nation, than can be parallelled in the annals of any other people. – But he may abuse them as much as he pleases about the Slave Trade. [16] 

About the Collection of Memoirs you should have some conversation with Mr Wynn. Your Collection should contain whatever of this kind is not included in <the> proposed Corpus which Government intends to print & he can give you some information as to the extent of their plan; & there are few men whose opinion would be worth more upon your own, thoroughly versed as he is in English history. By the by, who is to publish this Corpus? [17] 

Farewell my dear Sir, & believe me

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

I had nearly forgotten to request that you would send a copy of Dobrizhoffer [18] in the T “from the Translator – ” to Mr Rickman, – in New Palace Yard.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqre/ Albemarle Street/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 9 NO 9/ 1821
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
Watermark: G PAINE/ 1816
Endorsement: Nov 6. 1821/ R Southey Esq
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42552. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 226–228. BACK

[1] This paragraph deals with Southey’s ‘Life of Cromwell’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 279–347 (293). Southey’s comparison was between George Washington (1732–1799; President of the United States 1789–1797) and John Hampden (1594–1643; DNB), Parliamentarian and opponent of Charles I (1600–1649; King of Great Britain 1625–1649; DNB). BACK

[2] Southey did not write a fuller biographical account of Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; Lord Protector 1653–1658; DNB). BACK

[3] Southey’s Life of Nelson (1813), an expansion of his article in Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. BACK

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

[5] Southey reviewed Sara Coleridge’s An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay (1822) in Quarterly Review, 26 (January 1822), 277–323. Her book was a translation of Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784). BACK

[6] Southey used the salary he received as Poet Laureate to pay for a life assurance policy, which he had arranged through John May, a Director of the Equitable Assurance Company. BACK

[7] William Gilly’s (1761/2–1837) review of Memoir of the Rev. Henry Martyn, B.D., Late Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and Chaplain to the Honourable East India Company (1819), Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 437–453. BACK

[8] William Hone, The Apocryphal New Testament, being all the Gospels, Epistles, and Other Pieces Now Extant, Attributed in the First Four Centuries to Jesus Christ, His Apostles, and Their Companions, and not included in the New Testament by its Compilers. Translated from the Original Tongues, and Now First Collected into One Volume (1820), Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 347–65. Hone’s volume challenged scriptural authority and the reviewer, Hugh James Rose (1795–1838; DNB), had assured readers that ‘Nothing but the execution of a public duty would have tempted us to defile one line of our Journal with the notice of a wretch [Hone] as contemptible as he is wicked’ (348). BACK

[9] John Higgs Hunt (1780–1859; DNB), Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, a Heroic Poem, with Notes and Occasional Illustrations (1818), Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 426–437. The review’s authors were Reginald Heber and an unknown collaborator, with contributions by William Gifford. BACK

[10] John Barrow’s (1764–1848; DNB) ‘Humboldt’s Personal Narrative’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 365–392, a review of the fifth volume (1821) of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent During the Years 1799–1804 (1814–1826). BACK

[11] Barrow had, not for the first time, expressed scepticism about the stories of cannibalism related by Humboldt and others, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 382–383. BACK

[12] Barrow had criticised Williams’s translation of Humboldt as ‘verbose and languid’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 367. BACK

[13] The phrase used by Barrow, in his review essay ‘Notes on the Cape of Good Hope’, to describe the Portuguese, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 466. Portuguese monarchs had been awarded the title ‘Most Faithful Majesty’ by Benedict XIV (1675–1758; Pope 1740–1758) in 1748. BACK

[14] ‘Very little is known of any part of the eastern coast of Africa beyond the present limits of the Cape; and nothing at all of those portions of it which have the misfortune of falling into the hands of the Portugueze … if they really have any information concerning the interior, not a syllable of it is suffered to transpire’, Barrow’s ‘Notes on the Cape of Good Hope’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 466. BACK

[15] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). He neither completed nor published the ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[16] Barrow had noted that ‘Slaves and gold dust are the only objects’ that the Portuguese in Africa were interested in, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 466. BACK

[17] Wynn was one of the Commissioners on the Public Records of the Kingdom, a body periodically appointed since 1800 to look into the nation’s archives. He actively supported plans to publish collections of medieval records, as well as series like Statutes of the Realm (1810–1825). The plans for a government-sponsored ‘Corpus’ of historical documents did not come to fruition; neither did Murray’s plan for a collection of historical memoirs. BACK

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

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