3056. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 23 December 1817

3056. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 23 December 1817⁠* 

At last I have news that my books from Milan are safe in London, when I had almost despaired of them. There are in this box the Gesta Dei, [1]  Pigafettas Voyage [2]  & Maldonado, [3]  Ramusio, [4]  Opera S. Francisci, [5]  – a collection by Durand & Martene in four volumes, [6]  & the Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica of Bertolacci [7]  in five, – a great repository of its kind. Among the smaller books there is Mr Coppendales old friend, [8]  a good many volumes of Italian poetry, including the three best poets whom that country has produced since during the last two hundred years – Chiabrera, [9]  Maggi, [10]  & Filicaja, [11]  & a georgical poem in the Sardinian dialect printed at Cagliari & with an Italian version on the opposite page. [12]  – There is also a life of Carlos 3. written by some Abate I forget who, [13]  – this must of course must contain some facts respecting the abolition of the Jesuits, & will come in good time. I have written to have some of these books properly bound, & desired that the others may be forwarded without delay. I found only two Spanish books at Milan, the one an adaptation of Tassos poem to the conquest of Seville in short unsuitable verse, [14]  – a bad book xx but often mentioned for its singularity; – the other is a highly curious volume upon the Milicia de las Indias, written by a soldier of the Nuevo Reyno. [15]  I have Hebers copy (which was Dalrymples [16] ) in the house & have made from it a great number of notes.

Do you know anybody fit for the Chaplainship at Pernambuco? [17]  They will give 100£ for his passage, 300£ a year, & a house, wherein a room is to be reserved for the service. The Bishop of London [18]  cannot find persons for such situations, – he has several good situations in the West Indies for which there are no incumbents, – & a Chaplainship at Bahia of 500£ a year. Surely men might be found if they <were> properly sought. But for the Pernambuco xxxx xxxx he would take my recommendation, I believe, just now.

Have you heard the great news from the North? Some great convulsion appears to have broken up the ice about the pole. The Whalers went as far as 84 & there was then no ice in sight; – had their instructions allowed them to make such an attempt they were of opinion that there was nothing to prevent them from reaching the Pole! The coast of East Greenland was open. [19]  It was the large masses of ice floating to the S. which occasioned those extraordinary cold winds from the S. & S.W. throughout the whole of May: I often remarked at the time that nothing but floating ice could account for that unnatural weather. [20]  A Volcano is the most probable cause, & what renders this the more likely is that for the last two years there have been no fish at Kamtschatka, [21]  – to the great distress of <the> Bears, who in consequence are in a state of civil war with themselves, & with the people too, for that also which in a Be for a xxxxxx <war> between Bears & Kamtschatkans, or Bears & Russians is plus quam civile. [22]  It is the effect of marine volcanos to kill or drive away the fish, of course; & they might blaze away for years before they could break up such a continent of ice as actually appears to be removed. This is highly curious, tho it seems to have excited very little attention.

I had nearly forgotten to tell you that there came to me last week half a dozen lines from a merchant at St Quentins, [23]  saying that M Ostervald [24]  his Uncle having apprized him that I had some books to send him, he would take charge of forwarding them, if they were consigned to certain merchants in London. – This is a sufficiently dry manner of noticing a very civil letter, which requested him to give some news of himself to his friends: however I have sent the books, xxxxx & perhaps they may produce xx a letter of acknowledgement to you; – perhaps indeed he may have written to you.

When you go to town, if you will call at any time on Nash who lives next door to Wm Burn, [25]  he will show you some Keswick sketches, – among others are two or three views of this house.

Love to my Aunt & the Orsini: [26]  – & a happy season to you all.

God bless you


23 Dec. 1817.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Postmarks: 10 o’Clock/ DE 26/ 1817 FNn; E/ 26 DE 26/ 1817
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 163. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Gesta Dei per Francos, sive Orientalium Expeditionum, et Regni Francorum Hierosolimitani Historia (1611), no. 1193 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[2] Antonio Pigafetta (c. 1491– c. 1531), Primo Viaggio Intorno al Globo Terracqueo (1800), no. 2329 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Francisco de Herrera Maldonado (1584–after 1633), Sannazaro Español. Los Tres Libros del parto de la Virgen Nuestra Señora (1621), no. 3457 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), Navigationi e Viaggi (1556–88), no. 2382 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Sancti Francisci Assisiatis, Minorum Patriarchae nec non S. Antonii Paduani, Eiusdem Ordinis, Opera Omnia (1739), no. 977 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] Edmond Martene (1654–1739) and Ursin Durand (1682–1771), Thesaurus Novus Anecdotorum (1717), no. 1900 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Giulio Bartolocci (1613–1687), Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica de Scriptoribus et Scriptus Hebraicis (1675–1694), no. 236 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] Thomas Coppendale (d. 1833), uncle and business partner of John May in Portugal; his ‘old friend’ was an edition that he owned of the travels of Pietro della Valle (1586–1652). Southey owned several copies; possibly the version he bought was the one volume edition of Pietro della Valle (1586–1652), Voyages dans Le Turquie, L’Egypt, Les Indes (1658–1663), published in Venice in 1667, no. 2931 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] Gabriello Chiabrera (1552–1638), Opere (1782), no. 585 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] Carlo Maria Maggi (1630–1699), Rime Varie Di Carlo Maria Maggi, Sacre, Morali, Eroiche, Raccolte de Lodovic Antonio Muratori (1700), no. 3072 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[11] Vincenzo de Filicaja (1642–1707), Opere (1804), no. 1033 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[12] Antonio Purqueddu (1743–1810), Il Tesoro della Sardegna ne’ Bachi e Gelsi, Poema Sardo e Italiano (Cagliari, 1779), no. 2308 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[13] Francesco Becattini (c. 1740– c. 1820), Storia del Regno di Carlo III di Borbone (1790), no. 142 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[14] Juan Antonio de Vera y Figueroa (1583–1658), Fernando o Sevilla Restaurada. Poema Heroica escrito con los Versos de la Gerusalemme Liberata del insigne Torquato Tasso (1632), no. 3768 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[15] Bernardo de Vargas Machuca (1557–1622), Milicia y Descripción de las Indias (1599), no. 3758 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[16] Alexander Dalrymple (1737–1808; DNB) was Hydrographer of the Navy 1795–1808. BACK

[17] Through Henry Koster, the British inhabitants of Pernambuco, Brazil, had written to Southey asking him to facilitate the appointment of a chaplain. BACK

[18] Since 1633 the Bishop of London had responsibility for appointing all Anglican chaplains overseas where there was no local bishop. In South America there were seven such chaplaincies, all attached to local consulates and serving the English expatriate community. BACK

[19] Reports of events in the Arctic were widespread in British newspapers; see, for example, Morning Chronicle, 22 November 1817, which coincides closely with Southey’s information. BACK

[20] See, for example, Morning Chronicle, 4 October 1817, for an account of unusual amounts of ice in the North Atlantic. BACK

[21] British newspapers had carried a number of extracts from Hamburg papers at the end of 1817, e.g. Morning Chronicle, 8 December 1817. One of the extracts reported that in the Kamchatka peninsula ‘in the course of last winter an incredible number of bears have left the woods, frequently entered the houses of the Kamtschdales; in many places have attacked and devoured the inhabitants; nay traces have even been found of their having killed and devoured each other; at the end of the winter many bears were found who had perished of hunger. In several settlements they have killed from two to three hundred bears, the oldest Kamtschadales do not remember ever to have seen so many bears so savage and blood-thirsty. The cause of this savageness and of their hunger is, that for these two years past there has been an entire want of fish in the Kamschatka sea, and fish, as is well known, are the chief food of the bears, which being usually so abundant in those waters, they easily contrive to catch. A couple of shocks of an earthquake have been lately felt in the Peninsula.’ BACK

[22] ‘More than a civil war’. BACK

[23] Possibly M. Harlè (dates unknown), a merchant at St Quentin. BACK

[24] Possibly Jean Frederic Ostervald (1773–1850), a Swiss who served as British charge d’affaires in Portugal in the early 1790s. Later he published books about his native land. BACK

[25] 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

[26] Southey’s nickname for the Hills’ children. BACK

People mentioned

Nash, Edward (1778–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Catherine (1775–1848) (mentioned 1 time)
Heber, Richard (1774–1833) (mentioned 1 time)
Koster, Henry (1793–1820) (mentioned 1 time)
Howley, William (1766–1848) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)