2702. Robert Southey to John Murray, 20 January 1816

2702. Robert Southey to John Murray, 20 January 1816⁠* 

My dear Sir

The first part of Alfieri goes by tomorrows post; – it makes an article of rather more length than I had anticipated, & I think it will not be found wanting in interest. [1] 

Ali Bey will be cried down. A man who thought it worth while to be circumcised before he set out on his travels, should have explored something of more consequence than the temple of Mecca. He has added very little to our stock of knowledge; – the character in which he appears raises expectations which are not fulfilled, & for that reason less credit is likely to be given him than he deserves. There is curious matter in the book, & enough to make an amusing article which you shall have for your next number. [2]  Barrow would treat him unmercifully: – he has furnished some of your most valuable papers, but he has treated some of his fellow travellers, according to my judgement, with unjustifiable severity. [3]  – You shall also have the paper upon the Poor for your next number in which I will incorporate the subject of national education. [4]  – The matter of Bell & Lancaster [5]  as you rightly observe is done with, [6]  – but leaving that matter entirely aside, the subject of Dr Bs Ludus Literarius, as relating to the reformation of our grammar schools, & the probable improvement of education in this country, is I think of too far too much importance to be omitted in your Review. [7] 

In the mss about the Tonga Islands there is one story which you had better mention to the Editor as requiring some explanation. It is of a cavern which could only be entered by diving, the entrance being under the level of the sea, & the cave receiving no other light than what past thro the water. In this cave a woman is said to have been for some time concealed. How was it supplied with air fit for respiration? There must have been some communication with the atmosphere, & there had better be a something to this purport had better be said in a note. [8] 

Sismondi [9]  is an interesting writer, – but I find myself frequently capable of correcting him. – I send off a parcel of your books by the next carrier. The amount of what I have paid for carriage from Dec. 2d 1814 to this present time, is £6-2s.

I hope & trust you will xxx xxx not implicate your review in defending Lord Elgin. [10]  I should xxx xxx have stated the facts, – leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions, & abstaining from all comment. The Courier has made a miserable defence for him. [11]  – It is a nefarious business, – & nothing would mortify me more than to see the Q. in the wrong upon this subject, & the Edinburgh in the right.

It is not impossible that I may send you a few pages upon the Missionary in time for the present number. [12]  – If I may judge of the Dict. of Living Authors by what relates to myself, it is full of inaccuracies. [13]  But how should such a work be otherwise than inaccurate?

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

R Southey.

Keswick. 20 Jany 1816.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 23 JA 23/ 1816
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1816 Jan 20/ Southey R. Eqr
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey reviewed Vita di Vittorio Alfieri, &c. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Victor Alfieri, Written by Himself (1815); and The Tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri, Translated by Charles Lloyd (1815) in the Quarterly Review, 14 (January 1816), 333–368. BACK

[2] ‘Ali Bey’ was the name adopted by Domingo Badía y Leblich (1766–1818), the Spanish explorer, during his travels in Muslim North Africa. His narrative was published in English translation as Travels of Ali Bey in Morocco, Tripoli, Cyprus, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, and Turkey, Between the Years 1803 and 1807 (1816). Southey’s review appeared in the Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 299–345. BACK

[3] Sir John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), Second Secretary of the Admiralty 1804–1806, 1807–1845, geographer and reviewer of travel books for the Quarterly Review. BACK

[4] Southey’s review article ‘On the Poor’ appeared in the Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 187–235. BACK

[5] Lancaster was Bell’s rival as an educationalist promoting the monitorial system of schooling. BACK

[6] Southey had written in the Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304 on ‘Bell and Lancaster’s Systems of Education’ and had reworked the article in a pamphlet, also published by Murray: The Origin, Nature, and Object, of the New System of Education (1812). BACK

[7] Andrew Bell, Elements of Tuition, Part III: Ludus Literarius, the Classical and Grammar School (1815). Southey did not write in the Quarterly Review on this text. BACK

[8] Southey was advising Murray as to whether to publish a manuscript describing the sojourn on the Tonga islands of the ship’s boy William Mariner (1791–1853) who lived in the islands from 1806 to 1810 after the local people attacked his ship and killed his crewmates. The manuscript was published by Murray under the editorship of the meteorologist John Martin (1789–1869; DNB), as An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean, with an Original Grammar and Vocabulary of their Language, 2 vols (London, 1817). The description of the cave was in I, pp. 268–279; and the question of the air supply in the cavern was dealt with at length by Martin on pp. 277–279. Southey reviewed the book in Quarterly Review, 17 (April 1817), 1–39. BACK

[9] Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi (1773–1842), De La Littérature du Midi de l’Europe (1813), no. 2556 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. See Robert Southey to John Murray, 9 January 1816 (Letter 2697), for Southey’s request that Murray obtain Sismondi’s works for him. BACK

[10] Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine (1766–1841; DNB) had removed and brought to Britain marble sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens. Finding himself in debt, he sought to sell them to the British Museum. Considerable controversy ensued about their worth, artistic and monetary, and a parliamentary committee decided in 1816 that they should be purchased for £35,000. The controversy was compounded when the Edinburgh Review, 25 (October 1815), 285–310, published accusations that Elgin had, when Ambassador Extraordinary in Constantinople in 1799, appropriated the papers and valuable artefacts of John Tweddell (1769–1799; DNB). The accusations were criticised in the Quarterly Review, 14 (October 1815), 257–273. BACK

[11] The Courier, 5 January 1816. BACK

[12] Southey reviewed London Missionary Society, Transactions of the London Missionary Society (1815), among a number of other works, in Quarterly Review, 17 (April 1817), 1–39. BACK

[13] A Biographical Dictionary of the Living Authors of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1816), pp. 324–325, describes Southey thus: ‘Poet Laureat. He was born August 12,1774, at Bristol, where his father carried on an extensive business as a wholesale linen draper. The son was educated first under Mr. Foote a baptist minister of great ability, but at that time very aged. After a short time young Southey was removed to a school at Carston, where he remained about two years, and was then entered at Westminster School in 1787, where, in 1790, he fell under censure for his concern in the rebellion excited against the master, Dr. Vincent. In 1792 he became a student of Baliol College, Oxford, with a view to the church, but Unitarian principles and the revolutionary mania put an end to that design. So strongly did he imbibe the new opinions on politics which the explosion in France had produced, that he, with his friends Lovell and Coleridge, projected a plan of settling on the banks of the Susquehannah in North America, and of there founding a new republic. This Utopian scheme was soon dissolved for the want of means, and in 1795 Mr. Southey married Miss Tricker, soon after which event he accompanied his maternal uncle the Rev. Mr. Hill to Portugal, that gentleman being appointed Chaplain to the Factory at Lisbon. In 1801 Mr. Southey obtained the appointment of Secretary to the Right Hon. Isaac Corry, Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland. On retiring from office with his patron, our author went to reside in a cottage near Keswick, where also dwelt under the same roof the widow of his friend Lovell and the wife of Mr. Coleridge, both which ladies are sisters to Mrs. Southey. In 1813 he succeeded Mr. Pye as Poet Laureat, and it must be confessed that, with some slight exceptions, his subsequent performances are such as do credit to the appointment.’ BACK

People mentioned

Bell, Andrew (1753–1832) (mentioned 2 times)
Lancaster, Joseph (1778–1838) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)