3066. Robert Southey to John Murray, 11 January 1818

3066. Robert Southey to John Murray, 11 January 1818⁠* 

My dear Sir

It is not from idleness – you may be well assured, that I do not return the first proof, & send off the conclusion of the article. – The fact is that I have obtained some documents, & shall obtain more, which will enable me to treat the specific subject of the Poor Laws with full information, & a clear & specific <determined> purpose, in a way, that coming with the weight of your journal, & in this next number, may assist (very materially I hope & trust) in ridding this country of a burthen far more ruinous than its national debt. Reforms will be presented at the meeting of Parliament without which the research & strength of the article cannot be compleat – & upon such a subject & at such a time I think you will not repine at a three weeks delay, – especially as in that time I shall fit up & finish the present paper for the number after, with this title – On the means of improving the People. – I am giving my whole time & thought to these great subjects, – but the Poor Laws must xxx xx come as the first part, – that we may take the lead in preparing & informing the public. [1] 

My common–place books are full of materials of every kind, & among them abundant subjects for poetry, – but you may well imagine how little leisure I have for writing verses. I send you the only piece in my possession which could suit your purpose. [2]  – It is true that I have several of my Inscriptions for the Peninsular War, but they had better be reserved till the history is published, & then follow it in the same form. [3]  – Pray let me have the third volume of Le Genie de la Revolution consideré dans l’Education, as soon as it comes over, – it is to contain Buonapartes system of education during his reign, – precisely what I want to compleat my long & laboured introductory chapter. [4] 

Titles <Titles> are always difficult to chuse, & of little consequence when chosen. The Metropolitan Magazine might do, or if Magazine be thought infra dig, you might take the new name (as sufficiently near in import) of The Bazar, – <i.e. a receptacle> where all customers might find something which they wanted. I am afraid to promise any thing, – tho I have volumes of Omniana marked out; [5]  – & if my Acta Sanctorum were arrived might be tempted to plan a series of xxx Lives, belonging to the religious history of England. [6] 

For this number then the Poor Laws, – very little of which will be taken from these proofs. For the next “On the means of improving the People” which will be the present article with a new beginning – (& this you will have by the time the present number is out, – so that what time may be lost in the one number, may perhaps be saved upon the other,) – – the next subject is the Catacombs or Coleridge – if I can but be angry enough to begin, – for I have a noble collection of darts properly feathered pointed & barbed, – with which if I once begin I shall bristle Jeffrey like a porcupine, & make him hop like a parched pea, – or writhe like a feather upon the fire. [7]  If I had not so heartily despised this coxcomb I should have given him a Williamsmithiad [8]  long since.

Is there not a packet of Eclectic Reviews [9]  lying for me at your house?

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly


11 Jany. 1818


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 14 JA 14/ 1818
Seal: black wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
Endorsement: 1818 Jan 11 Southey, R.
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Written by Southey and Rickman (mainly the latter), this appeared as ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review¸18 (January 1818), 259–308, published 9 June 1818. Southey had hoped it would be included in Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), published 21 February 1818. Southey followed this article with ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118. BACK

[2] Murray had just taken a stake in the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, which was re-named Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1817–1980). He had asked Southey for a poem to appear in the new venture. The poem Southey sent is untraced and was not published. BACK

[3] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). His inscriptions on the same subject were not published as a group until they appeared in his Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 122–156. BACK

[4] Jean Baptist Germain Fabry (1770–1821), Le Génie de la Révolution Considéré dans l’Education ou Mémoires pour Servir a l’Histoire de l’Instruction Publique, Depuis 1789 jusqu’à Nos Jours (1817–1818), which Southey intended to use in his History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, pp. 3–62. BACK

[5] Southey published no more collections of Omniana, or Horae Otiosiores after the one that appeared in 1812. BACK

[6] Southey had bought this massive compendium of hagiographies (1643–1794) in Brussels the previous year; it became no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] Hazlitt had negatively reviewed Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria (1817) in the Edinburgh Review (edited by Jeffrey), 28 (August 1817), 488–515. Southey did not review Coleridge’s book or attack Jeffrey in the Quarterly Review. His article ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’ appeared in the Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–398. BACK

[8] The book Southey published with Murray, A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M. P. (1817). BACK

[9] The Eclectic Review (1805–1868) was a monthly periodical aimed at Nonconformists and was edited by Southey’s correspondent, Josiah Conder, 1813–1836. BACK

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