1679. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 8 September 1809

1679. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 8 September 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Harry

I am not sure whether I said any thing respecting a material part of your work, – which is its Bibliography. [1]  Have a book for this express purpose – & allowing every author his leaf or x more, as need may be, put down every thing concerning him & his works, as x you meet with it in the work itself, or stumble upon <it> accidentally elsewhere, – minuting down your own remarks, so that these Collectanea may be formed into a Bio-bibliographical & critical x account. This is what Gibbon [2]  regretted not having done, & what every historian should do – I shall do it volume by volume in my great opus. [3] 

I have long coveted & desired a set of the Byzantine Historians above all other books, & am not without hopes of being able to compass my wishes in the course of another year or two.  [4]  My last told you of an engagement with Ballantyne to write the history of Spanish affairs for 1808 – in his Ed. An. Register; – I have since consented to take the whole historical department, for which he is to pay no less a sum than 400 £. [5]  – & if I do this x a second year (he wishes me to undertake it regularly) it will enable me to purchase this enormous set of books, in which the whole of your Greek authorities will be contained. There is a French Hist. of the Crusaders which you must lay your hand on whenever you find it in a Catalogue. it is by P. Maimbourg [6]  – & I dare say bad enough, – but it will be of use, by sometimes showing the bearing & relation of facts to each other which might have escaped you, & more frequently by xxxxx a explaining the names of places, which are often utterly inexplicable without some such help.

You must acquaint yourself thoroughly with the whole grievous history of the Mahommedans, & this will best be done by the Universal History, [7]  which is far better in its this branch than in any other, – or than any other. It is an interesting history, but the Propria quӕ maribus [8]  of the Arabians renders it almost impossible to remember the actors who figure in it. your introduction should contain a view of the moral & political system of the Koran, i-e Islam as Mohammed taught it; & an account of its mythology as held by his followers, for the Christianity of the Vatican is not more unlike that of the Gospel in its mythology, than that of the present Mufti is to what Ali fought for. [9] 

Your first chapter must have an account of St Bernard. [10]  I can send you an Italian life of him of the date 1614, [11]  – if you can find no other at hand, but there will probably be one prefixed to his works, which there can be little doubt of finding in one of your Cathedral Libraries. I have a certain a copy out of which all the prolegomena, including xx xxxxx <the Table of Contents> have been torn, [12]  – & which by this mutilation is almost rendered useless, – for life is not long enough to read such authors thro. – before turning to it I perceive a Latin life which will doubtless be the best authority, & a seperate account of his miracles.

S Bernard was a far greater man than any of his Biographers will lead you to suppose, – they make him a Saint & a Thaumatourgos. [13]  – & that is all. but he was a farseeing statesman, & a main agent in that grand scheme of the Benedictines of uniting all Xtendom into a sort of federal government under the Pope. – at that time the grandest & most beneficial scheme that could possibly be devised. The Epistles must be examined, [14]  – I have occasion to hunt them thro for the chance there may be of finding any thing relating to Alfonso Henriquez, [15]  a great admirer of the Saints, – & I will mark what they contain for your purpose.


Since writing the above I have looked thro S Bernards works, – a note or two (which I have marked) may be gleaned from them. & this is all which you will find for your purpose.

Another plan which I can from experience recommend, is to have a common place book in which you to enter such passages in the work you read as have no immediate bearing to what you have in hand – & yet may be of use hereafter, – either entering the passage itself, the substance of it, or merely the subject with a reference to th the exact place, – according to the length & nature of the passage. I do this now to every book I read, & the advantage is very great. When your extracts are not in Greek or Latin you have an amanuensis at hand. Edith transcribes many of my notes for me.

I have two articles in the third Quarterly. The S Sea Missions & Ld Valentia. [16] 

Our love to Mary


R S.

Keswick – Sept. 8. 1809.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Durham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Watermark: T BOTFIELD
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p. In 74 A. L. S. to various correspondents.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 161–164. BACK

[1] This letter is largely concerned with Henry Southey’s proposed history of the Crusades. BACK

[2] Edward Gibbon (1737–1794; DNB), author of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–1789). BACK

[3] Southey’s History of Portugal, never completed, of which his History of Brazil (1810–1819) was a part. BACK

[4] Southey is probably referring to the French-compiled dual Latin/Greek edition of Byzantine texts, Byzantinæ Historiæ Scriptores (1645–1711). He eventually owned the Corpus Scriptorum Historiæ Byzantinæ in 40 volumes, no. 740 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] From 1810 to 1812 Southey contributed to the ‘History of Europe’ for 1808–1810 in James Ballantyne’s Edinburgh Annual Register. For Southey’s previous letter to Henry, see Southey to Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 17 August 1809, Letter 1670. BACK

[6] Louis Maimbourg (1610–1686), Histoire des Croisades pour la Deliverance de la Terre Sainte, par le P. Louis Maimbourg, de la Compagnie de Jesus (1682). BACK

[7] Southey is probably referring to the 26 volume Universal History, Ancient and Modern, from the Earliest Account of Time to the Present, Compiled from Original Authors, with the Additions, Maps and Plates (1740–1765), no. 2888 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] A schooltext Latin phrase, here meaning ‘things which are deemed appropriate to males’. BACK

[9] A mufti is a Sunni Islamic scholar who interprets Islamic law. Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (c. 599–661) was the son-in-law of Muhammad (570–632) as well as his cousin and supporter. After his death he became one of the first four leaders of Islam, but as Muhammad’s closest male relative he believed he should have had sole leadership. His murder in 660 led to a division between Sunni and Shiite Moslems. BACK

[10] Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), a French abbot who was instrumental in setting up the Cistercian religion order, as well as preaching support for the Second Crusade (1146–1149). The Second Crusade took place after the Christian defeat by the Seljuk Turks at the Siege of Edessa (1144), which was a Crusader state established after the First Crusade (1096–1099). BACK

[11] Southey owned a copy of Battista Vita di San Bernardo, published in Turin in 1618. It was no. 180 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[12] No. 247 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was St Bernard’s Opera (n.d.), wanting title. BACK

[13] One who works wonders or miracles. BACK

[14] The Epistles of St Bernard, published after his death. BACK

[15] Afonso I, or Afonso Henriques (c. 1109–1185), was the first King of Portugal (1112–1185). BACK

[16] Southey reviewed in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809): Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands, 24–61; 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), 88–126. BACK

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Ballantyne, James (1772–1833) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)