2883. Robert Southey to [Samuel Tillbrook], 22 December 1816

2883. Robert Southey to [Samuel Tillbrook], 22 December 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 22. Dec. 1816.

My dear Sir

I have left your letter too long unacknowledged, – but it is only this day that I have received one which ought to have answered an application made in consequence of it. [1]  – I write to learn what had been done, & where subscriptions were received, & to propose, as what appeared to me the surest & every way the best mode of raising a sum adequate to the exigence, or rather the merits of poor Bloomfield that an edition of his poems should be published for this purpose. [2]  Into whatever hands the copyright may have past after Vernor & Hoods [3]  failure I do not think any objection could be made on the part of the booksellers to such a mans making this use of his xxx own works under such circumstances. If there were no sense of justice, or any kindly feeling in the case, – we might reckon upon some sense of shame, & a wholesome consciousness of the obloquy attendant upon a refusal. Wordsworth agreed with me that this would be the best plan if it could be effected. But the letter which should have brought me information upon this subject says not a word about it, – so I must repeat the enquiry.

Thank you for examining Dr Beaumonts papers. [4]  – I have communicated the information to Sir George. It is unquestionably the poet who lived not in Elizabeths reign, [5]  but during the civil wars; – & must have attained a great age, unless he had a son who likewise bore the title of Doctor & was a man of eminence in the University; – for I find Dr Beaumont mentioned as one of the persons who distinguished themselves at Cambridge by resisting the plans of James 2d. [6]  This notice occurs in a history of those times translated from the Latin manuscript of a certain Alexander Cunningham. [7] 

If you hold your intention of editing Dante, [8]  a rich vein of commentary may be explored in the monkish legends of his age; I have no doubt that he may often be traced to their visions of Purgatory & Hell with which they abound. Bede, Matthew Paris, & Matthew of Westminster are rich in them, [9]  – & I am in possession of other less accessible stores of the same kind. Before you make your summer visit to the Lakes I trust my set of the Acta Sanctorum will have arrived, [10]  – the great store house for such things. It has been compleated for me, & I am in daily hopes of hearing that it has reached London.

Have you seen Kosters book? – the plain, full, satisfactory account of an unlearned, unscientific, right-minded & all-observing man. [11]  The state of society which he describes is very curious, & on the whole hopeful, in every respect infinitely better than that of the Spanish Americans in any of their widely different states.

We saw a great deal of Westall during the autumn, & were much interested with him. He has given me a drawing of most extraordinary execution, – a view from the top of Saddleback. [12] 

I was with him when he made the sketch, & the effect could not be more admirably represented. By this time he is probably at Coleorton, [13]  – where my poor friend Mr Nash has been enjoying himself these five weeks, – working away at Sir George’s pictures. That word reminds me of Miss Barker, who is painting with great industry & great success, – so much so that if she perseveres she is in a fair way of attaining to a very distinguished rank in the art.

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey


* Endorsement: Southey
MS: Houghton Library, Autograph File. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had received a letter from Tillbrook soliciting help and advice for Robert Bloomfield, who had been reduced to poverty by the bankruptcy of his publishers and by illness. BACK

[2] Southey’s suggestion of a new edition of Bloomfield’s poems was not adopted and instead donations were collected on his behalf by Samuel Rogers. BACK

[3] Bloomfield’s publishers Vernor and Hood failed in 1811, leaving ownership of his copyrights unclear. BACK

[4] Joseph Beaumont (1616–1699; DNB), Doctor of Divinity (1660), Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge 1674–1699, Master of Peterhouse 1663–1699 and author of the poem Psyche (1648). BACK

[5] Probably a reference to either Sir John Beaumont, 1st Baronet (c. 1582/1583–1627; DNB), poet, or his younger brother, the dramatist, Francis Beaumont (1584–1616; DNB), who belonged to the same family as Sir George Beaumont. BACK

[6] Beaumont resisted the plans of James II (1633–1701; King of Great Britain 1685–1688; DNB) to restore the influence of Catholicism in the University of Cambridge. BACK

[7] Southey obtained this information from Alexander Cunningham’s (1654–1737; DNB) Latin manuscript history, which was published as History of Great Britain, from the Revolution in 1688 to the Accession of George I, 2 vols (London, 1787), I, p. 76, no. 682 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] Tillbrook did not edit an edition of the works of Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321). BACK

[9] Bede (672/673–735; DNB), Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (c. 731); Matthew Paris (1200 – 1259; DNB), Chronica Majora (1240–1253); Matthew of Westminster, putative author of the continuations of Matthew Paris’s chronicle, Flores Historiarum (13th–14th centuries). BACK

[10] The massive, 53–volume, compendium of hagiographies entitled Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794) that Southey hoped he had bought in Brussels, no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. In fact, he had bought the 6–volume abridgement (1783–1794), no. 152 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[11] Henry Koster, Travels in Brazil (1816), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 16 (January 1817), 344–387. BACK

[12] An aquatint engraving of ‘Keswick Lake, from Saddleback’ was published in Westall’s Views of the Lake and of the Vale of Keswick (1820), with a Preface by Southey. BACK

[13] The seat, in Leicestershire, of the Beaumonts. BACK

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