1592. Robert Southey to William Gifford, 6 March 1809

1592. Robert Southey to William Gifford, 6 March 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick, March 6. 1809.


Your letter, and its enclosed draft, reached me this afternoon. I have to acknowledge the one, and thank you for the other. It gratifies me that you approve my defence of the missionaries, [1]  because I am desirous of such approbation; and it will gratify me if it should be generally approved, because I wrote from a deep and strong conviction of the importance of the subject. With respect to any alterations in this or any future communication, I am perfectly sensible that absolute authority must always be vested in the editor. The printer has done some mischief by misplacing a paragraph in p. 225., which ought to have followed the quotation in the preceding page. The beginning of the last paragraph is made unintelligible by this dislocation; and indeed you have omitted the sarcasm, which it was designed to justify. I could have wished that this Review had less resembled the Edinburgh [2]  in the tone and temper of its criticisms. That book of Miss Owenson’s [3]  is, I dare say, very bad both in manners and morale; yet, had it fallen into my hands, I think I could have told her so in such a spirit, that she herself would have believed me, and might have profited by the censure. The same quantity of rain which would clear a flower of its blights, will, if it falls heavier and harder, wash the roots bare, and beat the blossoms to the ground. I have been in the habit of reviewing more than eleven years, for the lucre of gain, and not, God knows, from any liking to the occupation; and of all my literary misdeeds, the only ones of which I have repented have been those reviewals which were written with undue asperity, so as to give unnecessary pain. I propose to continue the subject of the Missions through two other articles, neither of which will probably be half so long as the first; one respecting the South Sea Islands, the other South Africa. [4]  Lord Valentia’s book I shall be glad to receive, and any others which you may think proper to entrust to me. [5]  Two things I can promise, – perfect sincerity in what I write, without the slightest assumption of knowledge which I do not possess; and a punctuality not to be exceeded by that of Mr. Murray’s opposite neighbours at St. Dunstan’s. [6] 

I am, Sir,

Yours very respectfully,

Robert Southey.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 221–223. BACK

[1] Southey reviewed the Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (published from 1794); [John Scott-Waring (1747–1819; DNB)], Vindication of the Hindoos from the Aspersions of the Reverend Claudius Buchanan, M.A. With a Refutation of the Arguments Exhibited in his Memoir, on the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India, and the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives, by their Conversion to Christianity… By a Bengal Officer (1808); Thomas Twining (1776–1861; DNB), A Letter to the Chairman of the East India Company, on the Danger of Interfering in the Religious Opinions of the Natives of India; and on the Views of the British and Foreign Bible Society, as Directed to India (1807), in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. BACK

[2] The Edinburgh Review, which the Quarterly Review was set up to rival. BACK

[3] William Gifford reviewed Lady Sydney Morgan (née Owenson; bap. 1783–1859; DNB), Woman, or, Ida of Athens (1809), in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 50–52. BACK

[4] Southey reviewed the Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 24–61, but there are no reviews by him on the South African missions. BACK

[5] Southey reviewed George Annesley, Viscount Valentia (1770–1844), Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 (1809), in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 88–126. Southey’s article underwent major revisions by Gifford before publication. BACK

[6] The church of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet St, London was famous for its clock, the first public clock in London to have a minute hand. The clock features two figures of giants who strike the hours and quarters. The Murray publishing house was then located at 32 Fleet St. BACK

People mentioned

Gifford, William (1756–1826) (mentioned 2 times)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)