Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828)

Southey’s maternal uncle. Hill was the product of a second marriage, and after his father’s death was left short of money (even having to ‘pay his own school bills when it was in his power’) and on extremely bad terms with his older half-brother. Hill was educated at Christ Church, Oxford (BA 1772, MA 1774). From 1782–1807, he was chaplain to the British factory at Lisbon. Hill took a paternal interest in his nephews, and helped finance Southey’s education. Hill’s concern about Southey’s refusal to take the path mapped out for him (a path leading to ordination), his relationship with Edith Fricker, and his politics, led him to visit England in 1795. He returned to Portugal with Southey in tow. Oblivious to the fact that his nephew had married Edith the day before their departure, Hill used every opportunity to introduce Southey to more suitable women. Nevertheless, the time Southey spent with his uncle in 1795–1796 greatly strengthened their relationship, which remained close until Hill’s death in 1828. Hill encouraged his nephew’s interests in Spanish and Portuguese history and literature – the History of Brazil and the unfinished History of Portugal were projects prompted by Hill, who supplied books and manuscripts for them. When in 1806, the expected French invasion of Portugal forced Hill to contemplate returning to England, Southey was detailed to go to Hill’s parish of Staunton-on-Wye, Herefordshire and investigate the mismanagement of tithe income. Hill returned to this living in November 1807 and was the incumbent there until 1810, when the Duke of Bedford presented him to a parish in Streatham, near London. In 1808 Hill had married a woman twenty-five years his junior, Catherine Bigg-Wither, a friend of Jane Austen (1775–1817; DNB). The marriage produced six surviving children, all of whom were on good terms with Southey and his family. Hill’s son and namesake, Herbert Hill Junior, married Southey’s daughter Bertha in 1839. Southey dedicated his Colloquies (1829) to his uncle.

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