2692. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 7 January 1816

2692. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 7 January 1816⁠* 

Ever since my return my chief employment has been rhyming – which I hope has been done to a good tune; – xxx the work has grown under my hands, & is not yet compleated. [1]  I call it “A Poets Pilgrimage to the Field of Belle Alliance” (A or The as any one may happen to like best who will give an opinion upon such a subject.) This evening I have finished the fourth part, which makes between 8 & 900 lines in all. [2]  there are yet two more parts to be written, & perhaps a hymn for victory to conclude with. The sooner it is published the better, but I shall not for that reason push Pegasus [3]  beyond his speed, – for tho the occasion be temporary I have endeavoured to make something which shall <not> prove a mere temporary poem. It is in the six-lined stanza (like the story of Gualbertos [4] ) – a form which naturally induces a tint of language in keeping with the title of a Pilgrimage. I hope there will be no delay about the engravings. My fellow traveller who gives me the drawings lives next door to Burn, [5]  & I have desired the Doctor & Bedford to commence an acquaintance with him, – the latter as my fact-otum being to convey them to Longman. Some of the subjects are sufficiently picturesque, & these prints will give an interest to the book. [6] 

I have heard nothing from the Doctor since we left him, & this I regret, for I wish much to know how your leg is; – the weather has been very unfavourable at one time; & you I fear are not disposed to allow the part that rest which it requires.

Two divisions of my foreign purchases have arrived in England, & left London a week ago in one of Mr Vardons ships for Newcastle. Vardon says the Acta Sanctorum are among them. [7]  I wish this so much, that I doubt it for two weighty reasons (he not being a man who knows the Acts of the Saints from the Acts of the Sinners) – the bookseller was to draw on me for payment for them, & of this no intimation has reached me; – & I do not think so large a set of books (52 weighty folios) would come in one case, especially as my other purchases from the same man [8]  were themselves of considerable bulk – more than 100 volumes, some thirty being folio or quarto. I am anxious for their arrival, many of them being very curious books

Your Lewis Guicciardini will help me to a few notes, – a great assistance this to a lean book, which must needs have a substantive shape. [9]  My journal had better not be cut up for this purpose more than is absolutely necessary; – it will turn to much better account as a post obit [10] 

Edith has compleatly recovered; Cumberland air, & her usual house & habits soon set all to rights again. So long an intermission of her lessons has had no ill effect, except that she had a little music to recover, which I care nothing about; She reads Caesar [11]  as well as I did at her age, & reads off the Inca Garcilaso [12]  into English with the utmost fluency. Herbert began Homer with the new year, & as soon as the Saxon Chronicle is published, he & I are to begin it together. [13]  How easily are languages acquired in youth, if no needless difficulties are placed in the way!

You saw my set of Vondels works, the Dutch poet. He has one drama upon the fall of Lucifer & another upon the fall of man. [14]  Whether Milton had read them I shall see, but that Milton was acquainted with his Tragedy of Samson appears to me from a very cursory glance at parts of this composition beyond a doubt.

The second volume of Park, [15]  which is to keep company with xx the first upon your shelves, is I believe on its way to Keswick. I shall find an opportunity of sending it to its proper place.

Love to my Aunt & the Ursine [16]  nobility. I hope the Ursa Major goes on well with his Latin, & can speak Cousin Oberts name as if it began with an R. Tell him he must not be such a Ougue as to ob my name of a letter. Love from both the Ediths, [17]  I am desired to say that your elegancies [18]  are in hand – whether or not they will set the fashion in these remote parts is doubtf may be doubted.

God bless you



7 Jany. 1816


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: [both partial] 10 o’Clock/ JA 10/ 1816; E/ 10 JA
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 149. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[2] Southey probably meant that he had drafted the ‘Proem’ and Books 1–3 of Part One of the poem (840 lines in the published version). But he was nowhere near finishing; the poem grew to include another Book in Part One and four Books in Part Two, though the ‘hymn for victory’ was not written. BACK

[3] In Greek mythology Pegasus was a winged horse; the fountain Hippocrene on Mount Helicon was created from his hoof-print and all who drank from it received poetic inspiration. BACK

[4] ‘St. Juan Gualberto’, first published in Annual Anthology, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799–1800), II, pp. 1–19. BACK

[5] William Burn (1750–1821) was a friend of the Southeys from their days in Portugal. A member of the Lisbon Factory, he was well-known to Herbert Hill and John May and had first met Southey in Lisbon in 1796. He moved to London in 1806. BACK

[6] Seven engravings of places around which the fighting at the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815) centred, after drawings by Nash, appeared in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London,1816) as a frontispiece and between pp. 56–57, pp. 62–63, pp. 68–69, pp. 70–71, pp. 88–89, and pp. 90–91. BACK

[7] Southey hoped he had bought the 53–volume compendium of hagiographies, Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), no. 207 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. To his disappointment, he had only bought the 6–volume abridgement (1783–1794), no. 152 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] Jean-Baptiste Ver Beyst (1770–1849), a famous Brussels bookseller. BACK

[9] Southey provided notes from Luigi Guicciardini (1521–1589), Belgicae, sive Inferioris Germaniae, Descriptio (1613) in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), pp. 202, 205. BACK

[10] Southey means that the manuscript journal he kept on his 1815 tour of the Netherlands and Belgium should not be mined too heavily to provide notes to The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) because to do so would diminish its value to his family as a posthumous publication. The journal was finally published as Journal of a Tour in the Netherlands in the Autumn of 1815 (1902). BACK

[11] Julius Caesar (100–44 BC), Commentarii de Bello Gallico, a text used to teach those beginning to learn Latin. BACK

[12] Garcilaso de la Vega (1539–1616), Commentarios Reales que Tratan del Origen de los Yncas (1609), no. 3800 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[13] A copy of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, so that Southey and Herbert could study Old English. In 1815 ‘A new edition of the Saxon Chronicle, with an English translation and notes’, edited by James Ingram (1774–1850; DNB), Rawlinsonian Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford 1803–1808, was advertised as ‘in the press’, The Tradesman, 14 (January 1815), 55. However, it did not appear until 1823. Southey had two copies, nos 2593–2594 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[14] Southey possessed 11 volumes of the various works of Joost van den Vondel (1587–1679), no. 3091 in the sale catalogue of his library. Vondel’s plays included Lucifer (1654), Adam in Ballingschap (1664) and Samson of Heilige Wraeck (1660). Whether Vondel influenced John Milton’s (1608–1674; DNB), Paradise Lost (1667) and Samson Agonistes (1671) or the similarities between the two poets’ works are attributable to their sharing of similar sources, is still debated. BACK

[15] Mungo Park (1771–1806; DNB), Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa: Performed in the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797, with an Account of a Subsequent Mission to that Country in 1805, 2 vols (1816). BACK

[16] Southey referred to his cousins, Hill’s children, Edward, Herbert, Erroll and Alfred, as ‘the bears’. Edward Hill, the eldest, was ‘Ursa Major’. BACK

[17] Edith and Edith May Southey. BACK

[18] Upper stocks – trousers reaching from the waist to the knee; and nether stocks – hose reaching from knee to ankle. Garments favoured by Herbert Hill. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)


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